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Dirty Dozen Tips for an Attorney Trying to Detect Altered Records: Part 3

Dirty Dozen Tips for an Attorney Trying to Detect Altered Records: Part 3

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Are you an attorney who is concerned that medical records were altered? Are you investigating a possible charge of tampering with medical records? Here are tips for detecting altered medical records.

  • Examine handwriting to see if there are obvious changes in the appearance of the writing within an entry. Another thing to look for is a change in style. If notes are sloppily written and suddenly a page of neatly written notes appears from the same author, this may be a sign that the page has been rewritten at a later date.
  • Look for red flag notes. Sometimes the individual will leave a note behind that states that a record has been changed. For example, a medical record included a page that contained a handwritten note that stated, “Phyllis, substitute this page for the evaluation completed 5/6/04.” The page was copied with the handwritten note on top of the clinical record.
  • Be aware of a typed entry that follows handwritten entries or vice versa.
  • Look for discrepancies from the type of charting that is required by regulations and facility policy.
  • Look for an excessive number of late entries, especially involving circumstances surrounding the act or injury in question. Examine the timing of the late entry. Sometimes the healthcare professional adds a late entry after learning of a problem. Review the chart to see if there were other intervening opportunities for the healthcare professional to add the late entry before the time of discovery of a problem.
  • Look for words that are squeezed into an entry.
  • A half sheet instead of a full page of a medical record may be found. Careless photocopying could have occurred, but it is also possible that the page was cut or folded over to hide information.
  • When reviewing the original medical record, look for a photocopy of a page that has replaced an original.
  • Look for the obliteration of entries. Was correction fluid or heavy marker used to cross off entries?
  • Review the original record to detect different color ink used within the same entry. This will not show up on a photocopy unless a heavy felt tip pen is used as one of the writing instruments. Even a slight change in the color of the ink suggests that two different pens were used to create the record (the implication being that one part of the record was added at a later date).
  • Compare the family’s photographs of the patient with the medical records. Are there pressure ulcers in the photographs that are not described in the medical records? Are the patient’s tongue and teeth green with mold, but the medical records document daily mouth care?
  • If photographs of a pressure ulcer are available ask a clinician to compare the stage of pressure ulcer in the photographs with what is documented in the medical records.

See other posts on tampering with medical records at these links.

Dirty Dozen Tips for Detecting Altered Medical Records part 1
Dirty Dozen Tips for Detecting Altered Medical Records part 2
7 Tips for Detecting Altered Medical Records part 4
9 Tips for Detecting Altered Records part 5

Modified from, “Tampering with medical Records”, Medical Legal Aspects of Medical Records for more tips.

Med League provides medical expert witnesses to trial lawyers. Please call us at (908)788-8227 or contact us today to discuss your next case.

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