When it comes to being a DC, many legal restrictions and limitations apply. For instance, in chapter 38 of The Florida Healthcare Professionals’ Medico-Legal Guide, author George F. Indest III, JD, MPA, LL.M, talks about how Florida’s statutes define a chiropractor’s scope of practice. As an example, they allow a DC to engage in adjustments and manipulations, but prohibit the performance of surgeries, the prescription of drugs, or from “using diagnostic instruments or instruments for the treatment of patients, the use of which are not taught in the regular course of instruction in a college recognized by the Florida Board of Chiropractic Medicine.”
In this chapter, Indest goes on to share the numerous and lengthy requirements and regulations related to insurance and trust account payments, and other various actions (or inactions) that could place you at risk of facing disciplinary action should you violate them. Although this publication is directed toward DCs in Florida specifically, it’s clear that, regardless of which state you choose to make “home” for your chiropractic practice, legal boundaries apply.
With this in mind, wouldn’t it be nice to use a record-keeping system that helps protect you legally? One that was an asset, instead of being a possible liability to your practice? If you answered yes, then an electronic health record (EHR) system may be what you’re looking for as its use offers many legal advantages for a practicing DC. Here are just four of them:
Better Data Integrity
In a post from 2013, NCMIC, a national provider of chiropractic malpractice insurance, talks about a report from the Office of Inspector General which “found that 47% of the claims submitted by chiropractors were ‘fraudulent.’” Furthermore, poorly kept or lack of records is the most common source of these “frauds”.
Using an EHR can help reduce these types of issues as automatic record backups, which occur either on or off-site, prevent the loss of data that you’re required to retain and report. And because the data is date and time-stamped, you can easily prove that you’ve met the legal requirements promptly.
Another integrity-related benefit of using an EHR is that all of your information can be encrypted. This adds security to your private and confidential information, prohibiting access by those without proper authorization and potentially saving you from a lawsuit arising from a possible data breach.
Reduced Charting Errors
As noted in the above study, many of the fraudulent claims found by NCMIC were related to coding errors. Using an EHR can protect you legally by reducing the occurrence of charting mistakes. One of the ways it does this is by using a system that maximizes workflow, thereby increasing efficiency and decreasing workload. A system that seamlessly links notes to billing is one of the best ways to keep EHR and billingaccounts consistent and accurate.
EHRs also reduce errors by notifying you if an error exists. For example, an automatically generated interoffice alert of a preventative maintenance patient is on Medicare and should be billed out as such can save you from potential insurance liability. Another auto alert may be generated for providers when a patient has dangerously high blood pressure. This type of high-quality record-keeping makes it easier for you, the DC, to support the clinical decisions you make regarding patient care or insurance policies.
A third legal benefit of using an EHR is improved accountability. Here are three ways this can happen:
- Digital signatures make notes un-editable and with a date-time stamp synchronized on the web.
- Inability to delete records keeps your patient files safe from being accidentally removed and also proves that you didn’t attempt to modify or omit information.
- If ever audited, your records will have a clear log of which user conducted which actions, making it easier to show what happened and when creating a clear timeline of actions taken. In a sense-making records tamper-proof.
Having this level of accountability encoded in the files can protect you legally, but it also encourages staff to be diligent when inputting information as their name is attached directly to it.
Finally, EHRs make it easier to demonstrate compliance with different local, state, and federal requirements for practicing DCs. For example, by using a certified EHR system, you can prove that your data is HIPPA compliant, securing the private information of patients from individuals who aren’t privy to that particular information. Additionally, HL7 standards within EHR systems ensure data is complete, accurate, and secure.
Implementing an EHR for your record-keeping system can benefit you legally, and these are just a few of the ways. In a world where you can never be too careful, it’s nice to have a system that helps you cover your legal bases as opposed to exposing them. This level of accountability is what makes EHR’s so important.