Announcing the Philosophic Medical Records Revolution

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Enter the Revolution

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By David Edward Marcinko MBBS MBA CMP®

Enter the CMPs

To understand the MR revolution that has occurred the past decade , place yourself for a moment in the position of third-party payer.

You want to know if Dr. Brown actually gave the care for which he is submitting a bill.  You want to know if that care was needed.  You want to know that the care was given to benefit the patient, rather than to provide financial benefit to the provider beyond the value of the services rendered.

Can you send one of your employees to follow Dr. Brown around on his or her office hours and hospital visits?

Of course not!  You cannot see what actually happened in Dr. Brown’s office that day or why Dr. Black ordered a CAT scan on the patient at the imaging center.  What you can do is review the medical record that underlies the bill for services rendered from Dr. Blue.

Most of all, you can require the doctor to certify that the care was actually rendered and was indicated.  You can punish Dr. White severely if an element of a referral of a patient to another health care provider was to obtain a benefit in cash or in kind from the health care provider to whom the referral had been made [Stark Laws].  You can destroy Dr. Rose financially and put him in jail if his medical records do not document the bases for the bills he submitted for payment.

This nearly complete change in function of the medical record has precious little to do with the quality of patient care. To illustrate that point, consider only an office visit in which the care was exactly correct, properly indicated and flawlessly delivered, but not recorded in the office chart.  As far as the patient was concerned, everything was correct and beneficial to the patient.  As far as the third-party payer is concerned, the bill for those services is completely unsupported by required documentation and could be the basis for a False Claims Act [FCA] charge, a Medicare audit, or a criminal indictment.  We have left the realm of quality of patient care far behind.  Shall we change it back to the way it was?  That is not going to happen.




Instead, practitioners must adjust their attitudes to the present function of patient records. They must document as required under pain of punishment for failure to do so.  That reality is infuriating to many since they still cling to the ideal of providing good quality care to their patients and disdain such requirements as hindrances to reaching that goal.  They are also aware of the fact that full documentation can be provided without a reality underlying it.

“Fine, you want documentation?  I’ll give you documentation!”

Some have given in to the temptation of “cookbook” entries in their charts, or canned computer software programs, EHR [electronic medical record] templates, listing all the examinations they should have done, all the findings which should be there to justify further treatment; embedded “billing engines” not with-standing. We have personally seen records of physical examinations which record a patient’s ankle pulses as “equal and bounding bilaterally” when the patient had only one leg; hospital chart notes which describe extensive discussion with the patient of risks, alternatives and benefits in obtaining informed consent when the remainder of the record demonstrates the patient’s complaint that the surgeon has never told her what he planned to do; operative reports of procedures done and findings made in detail which, unfortunately, bear no correlation with the surgery which was actually performed.




Whether electronic medical records (EMR) will really be helpful, in the future, is still not known.

In fact, according to Ed Pullen MD, a board certified family physician practicing in Puyallup WA, electronic health records are defined primarily as repositories of patient data [much like paper records].

But, in the era of meaningful use [MU], patient-centered medical homes, and Accountable Care Organizations [ACOs], mere patient data repositories are not sufficient to meet the complex care support needs of clinical professionals. These complaints arise because EHR systems are being used as clinical care support systems, which means they should enhance the productivity of clinical professionals and support their information needs, not hinder them [personal communication, and]. 


Your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

Speaker: If you need a moderator or speaker for an upcoming event, Dr. David E. Marcinko; MBA – Publisher-in-Chief of the Medical Executive-Post – is available for seminar or speaking engagements. Contact:


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Yale University


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