Introduction: Medical documentation issues play a role in 10-20% of medical malpractice lawsuits. Inaccurate, incomplete, or generic records undermine a physician’s defense and make a plaintiff’s lawyer more likely to take on a case. Despite the frequency of documentation errors in malpractice suits, physicians receive very little education or feedback on their documentation. Our objective in this case series was to evaluate malpractice cases related to documentation to help improve physicians’ documentation and minimize their liability risks.
Methods: We used Thomson Reuters Westlaw legal database to identify malpractice cases related to documentation. Common issues related to documentation and themes in the cases were identified and highlighted.
Results: We classified cases into the following categories: incomplete documentation; inaccurate text; transcription errors; judgmental language; and alteration of documentation. By evaluating real cases, physicians can better understand common errors of other practitioners and avoid these in their own practice.
Conclusion: Emergency physicians can reduce their liability risks by relying less on forms and templates and making a habit of documenting discussions with the patients, recording others’ involvement in patient care (chaperones, consultants, trainees, etc.), addressing others’ notes (triage staff, nurses, residents, etc.), paying attention to accuracy of transcribed or dictated information, avoiding judgmental language, and refraining from altering patient charts.