Salmonella Outbreak – Medical Records Needed

Whoa, that pesky salmonella.  Striking again.  This time the harmful strain can be attributed to conditions at a Foster Farms poultry plant in California.

Salmonella is a thorn in the chicken industry’s side: the salmonella bacteria is actually quite common in the poultry industry and can be detected in most chickens, often from birth.  Since the salmonella bacteria can be killed through cooking, government officials allow some levels of the contaminant to be present in poultry factories.  The largest concern over the recent outbreak, however, is the particular strain of salmonella: Salmonella Heidelberg.  Salmonella Heidelberg has become resistant to some common antibiotics and over 40% of the recent illnesses have resulted in hospitalizations, twice the normal rate associated with most salmonella outbreaks.

Currently, 362 people have reportedly been infected across 21 states.  No deaths have been reported.  Recalls have been issued at several grocery store chains, including the Costco in San Francisco, CA.  Nevertheless, the salmonella tainted chicken may still be in circulation in grocery stores around the country as the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, F.S.I.S., did not actually order Foster Farms or any grocery store to recall the tainted chicken.  The current solution to the outbreak: handle your chicken carefully, and cook it well.

This is not the first salmonella outbreak, nor will it be the last.  MEDRECS is constantly monitoring the CDC and other sources for information on outbreaks and other consumer issues.  We have been intimately involved in the rapid gathering and processing of medical records for patients affected by past salmonella outbreaks related to peanut butter and other tainted food products.  The speedy retrieval and vetting of medical records is critical both to law firms and the patients they represent in order to ensure a complete understanding of the outbreak and subsequent illnesses, and to ensure impartial and transparent access to the primary evidence: the medical records.

If your law firm finds itself representing a party in a food-bourne illness matter, you can count on MEDRECS as your medical records partner. Our experience and success on large volume high-profile cases is unmatched and our turnaround time for production of records is industry best.

For any questions you have for MEDRECS, please contact us at contact@medrecs.com

Sources:

http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/heidelberg-10-13/

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/10/08/salmonella-chicken-outbreak/2941783/

http://articles.latimes.com/2013/oct/18/business/la-fi-foster-farms-20131019

2014 Changes to RCW 70.02.010

Interesting news flash: it looks like the transition to electronic medical records is beginning to pay off, monetarily.

Effective 07/01/2014, “reasonable fees” will be lowered to $0.65 pp for the first 30 pages and to $0.50 pp for any pages thereafter.  (note – this new rate is down from $1.04 pp for the first 30 pages, and $0.79 pp for all pages thereafter.)  Additionally, the maximum clerical fee a provider may charge will be reduced from $23.00 to $15.00.

“These amounts shall be adjusted biennially in accordance with changes in the consumer price index, all consumers, for Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan statistical area as determined by the secretary of health.”

To see the new bill, click here: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/documents/billdocs/2013-14/Pdf/Bills/Session%20Laws/House/1679-S.SL.pdf

Subpoena v. Subpoena Duces Tecum

The other day a couple paralegals and I sat together at happy hour discussing subpoenas.  Several questions arose as we tossed around the general term subpoena and the more regal sounding Latin trinomial, subpoena duces tecum.  At first, we simply argued over how to pronounce the latter.  Then we turned to a deliberation over the difference between the two terms, and if indeed there was any significant difference?  Are the terms interchangeable?  If the terms refer to distinct legal commands, then when should each be invoked, and for what purpose?  In the end, like good legal professionals, we agreed to disagree on what constitutes a subpoena duces tecum versus a standard “subpoena.

In light of this dispute, I decided to dig deeper and I uncovered some answers:

To begin, we must define “subpoena:  a subpoena is a writ issued by a government agency, often a court, or by an attorney of record in the action who is thereby endowed with legal authority to act as an officer of the court.

There are two types of subpoenas – subpoena ad testificandum and subpoena duces tecum - which serve three common purposes:  (1) to compel testimony before the court, (2) to compel presence at a deposition, or (3) to compel the production of tangible evidence.  The subpoena ad testificandum is used for number (1) and (2) above, while the subpoena duces tecum is used for number (3).  

Since subpoena ad testificandum is such a mouthful, it is often simply referred to as a “subpoena”; so, the general term “subpoena” refers to a writ summoning an individual to the court or to a deposition, whereas, the specific term “subpoena duces tecum” refers to a writ summoning the production of evidence pertinent to the case.

The term subpoena duces tecum is literally Latin for “bring with you under penalty of punishment”.  Not to confound matters further, but, in many states a subpoena duces tecum is referred to as a “subpoena for the production of evidence”.  (Note – several states are attempting to reduce the usage of non-English words in court terminology.  Furthermore, the legal lexicon is not employed uniformly from state to state.  What may be referred to as a “subpoena duces tecum” in one state may be referred to as a regular ol’ “subpoena” in another.)

The main difference between a “subpoena” (subpoena ad testificandum) and a subpoena duces tecum is that the subpoena duces tecum does not require the subject to give oral testimony.  The subpoena duces tecum only commands the subject to produce the items named in the document.  In the past, it was far more common for the subject to bring the items with her/him to the court; however, nowadays it is normal for the subject to mail or deliver the items to the attorney’s office or to the office of a record retrieval company such as MEDRECS.

It should now be clear that in our world of personal injury and other medical related litigation, we almost always deal with subpoena duces tecum.  Medical related litigation relies heavily upon the acquisition of medical records and other information from healthcare entities such as hospitals and doctors’ offices.  Such information provides the evidence which constitutes the crux of many cases.  Therefore, it is very common for a subpoena duces tecum to be used to compel the production of vital material such as medical records, billing records, x-rays, pharmacy records, billing codes, pathology material, employment records, labor and industries records, and the list goes on.

During the process of discovery, requests for records are typically sent to healthcare providers which seek the production of medical records and other key documents.  It is not uncommon, however, for insufficient or incomplete information to be produced by the healthcare facility, or, in some cases, no information is produced at all.  For this reason, the subpoena duces tecum is an effective way to compel healthcare providers to produce complete and accurate evidence, which is specifically outlined in the subpoena.  Failure to produce the information listed in a subpoena may open the healthcare provider to penalty.

If you have any questions about the subpoena service process, whether a subpoena is appropriate or necessary, or if you seek assistance in the preparation and service of a subpoena, please feel free to contact MEDRECS.

Sources:

http://www.floridabar.org/TFB/TFBResources.nsf/Attachments/10C69DF6FF15185085256B29004BF823/$FILE/Civil.pdf?OpenElement

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subpoena_duces_tecum

http://www.rotlaw.com/legal-library/what-is-a-subpoena-duces-tecum/

MEDRECS: Mass Tort Litigation Update

In light of the recent government shutdown and partial lapse in funding for the CDC and FDA, we thought it beneficial to post a reminder about ongoing health alerts as well as  mass litigation proceedings we track.  As a premier medical record retrieval provider, MEDRECS routinely monitors food safety announcements and other warnings published by the CDC.  We often find ourselves gathering records for parties both pre-litigation and during litigation.  

One current outbreak being monitored is cyclosporiasis, a parasite that causes intestinal infections.  Public health officials allege that this parasite can be traced back to a salad mix produced by Taylor Farms de Mexico and resold in restaurants throughout the southern United States, Iowa and Nebraska.  There have been over 600 cases reported in 25 states, resulting in 45 hospitalizations.  Fortunately, no deaths have been reported.  The widespread nature of the outbreak suggests that not all cases of the parasite are related to each other or can be traced to a common source.  An investigation is ongoing.  Despite this outbreak, the CDC encourages everyone to continue eating vegetables and leafy greens as part of a healthy and balanced diet.  

At MEDRECS, we also monitor mass tort litigation proceedings.  SSRI litigation (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors), connecting SSRIs to birth defects, has been ongoing for several years now.  In 2010, GlaxoSmithKline, maker of the SSRI Paxil, agreed to settle over 800 lawsuits for over $1 billion.  Now, SSRI litigation appears to be heating up again.  Over the summer a new lawsuit appeared in Pennsylvania alleging a connection between birth defects and the use of the SSRI Zoloft during pregnancy.  Hundreds of similar federal cases from around the country could join the multi-district litigation which is set in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  We will be tracking the development of these cases.

When your law firm, company, or governemnt agency finds itself involved in a mass tort proceeding, you can count on MEDRECS as your medical records partner. Our experience and success on large volume high-profile cases is unmatched and our turnaround time for production of records is industry best.  We have worked for the pharamceautical industry, government, healthcare industry, and for parties to numerous food-bourne illness lawsuits, gathering thousands of medical records under strict deadlines.   

Medical record retrieval is simultaneously one of the most important and most cumbersome and confounding aspects of mass litigation. Coordinating, tracking, and managing the complex job of mass record retrieval on these cases can be quite painstaking indeed.  For this reason, law firms, insurance companies, class-action administrators, and government agencies involved in litigation greatly benefit from the outsourcing of record retrieval.

For any questions about MEDRECS or this article, please email contact@medrecs.com 

Hop on the HIPAA Omnibus

In the world of HIPAA we have a dizzying array of acronyms to keep straight:  HITECH, NPP, PHI, GINA, AFEHCT and on and on… Now, the HIPAA regulators at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have coined a catchy term for the new HIPAA compliance laws that went into effect this Monday, September 23, 2013:  The HIPAA Omnibus Rule

The HIPAA Omnibus Rule is a more stringent set of standards and regulations which provides stronger privacy rights for patients.  The privacy rights are outlined in a new Notice of Privacy Practices (NPP) document which medical providers must give to new patients as of September 23, 2013.  New patient rights include the following: 

  • Patients now have a right to tell their provider to not share information with their health insurer about treatment paid for out of pocket.  According to practice management consultant Mary Pat Whaley, these private payments are often for psychiatric or mental health treatment, which patients do not want their insurance plans to know about. 
  • Stronger regulations are also in place regarding how patient health information may be used and disclosed for marketing and fundraising purposes.  
  • Privacy regulations now extend to business associates of medical providers, including outsourced billing companies.  As a result, we expect third party billing services to become even more cautious and strict regarding the release of patient information in the weeks and months ahead.  

As all of us in the world of litigation know, obtaining complete medical records is one of the more difficult and pain-staking aspects of working up the case.  We will keep our fingers on the pulse of these developments in the months ahead and we will keep the legal world apprised of any changing requirements regarding authorized access to patient medical and billing records.  

For any questions regarding access to medical records under the new HIPAA Omnibus Rule, please feel free to contact MEDRECS, Inc

In light of these new HIPAA regulations, we suggest that any office or firm that stores or accesses patient medical records provide HIPAA compliance training to staff and personnel on a regular basis.  The laws are constantly being updated and the penalties for HIPAA violations continue to become more serious.  Links to helpful websites are below. 

MEDRECS FAQ Page: http://www.medrecs.com/Home/FAQ

Healthcare-Informatics: http://www.healthcare-informatics.com/news-item/breaking-hhs-releases-hipaa-update

HHS Website: http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/index.html

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MEDRECS Tips for Record Retrieval – VA Hospital / Madigan Army Hospital

The Department of Veteran Affairs and Madigan Army Hospital receive a huge volume of requests for medical records.  Naturally, processing time may be delayed in some cases, and for this reason it is critical to provide as much information as possible at the outset of the request.  Today’s “MEDRECS tip” concerns spouses of servicemen/servicewomen:

If the spouse of a serviceman or servicewoman gets injured, they may be treated at the VA or Madigan Hospital under their spouse’s military insurance. i.e., the husband is in the military, his wife gets injured and taken to Madigan.  When medical records are requested from Madigan under these circumstances, it is important to have the “sponsor”, or servicemember’s social security number in order to obtain the records.  If the records are requested using only the wife’s SSN, for example, Madigan may state that there are no records for this patient, when in fact they do have the records, but the records are filed under the husband’s SSN.

As a service to the legal community, MEDRECS provides periodic medical record retrieval tips and pointers that we believe will help to make everyone’s lives easier.  We understand the pressures of litigation, and that’s why we do everything we can to provide knowledge and expertise that helps law firms streamline the record retrieval process.  To download VA and Madigan authorization forms, please visit our Resources page.

Veterans Affairs medallion - Dakota Sisterhood...

Veterans Affairs medallion

MEDRECS Record Retrieval Tips to Remember – Download

Happy 2013 to all of our family and friends!  We are looking forward to another successful year of service and dedication to the legal community.

We would like to start the year off with our first installment of the MEDRECS Tips to Remember series for medical records retrieval.  Click here for our free white paper which contains helpful reminders for requesting medical records for auto-accident injury cases and on-the-job injury cases:

We periodically post white paper downloads through this blog so stay tuned for more helpful tips from your friends at MEDRECS!

MEDRECS is a trusted leader in the records retrieval industry and this download offering is just one way of showing our appreciation and support for our customers and the legal community as a whole.

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