By Sharon M. Martino, RN
© The Medical-Legal News 2007
Legal nurse consultants and life care planners have much to gain from the technology in today’s marketplace. Both of these professionals are asked to take a large amount of information and give the attorney an easily understood presentation of their medical record analysis and life care plan.
In general, technology is good for the medical/legal professional for completing repetitive tasks, organizing, saving information, searching data and assisting with visualization of the findings and information presented. The technology cannot do the analysis and interpretation that the legal nurse professional can — it can only assist.
Computer programs allow more efficiency and save time in preparation of reports and life care plans.
At a minimum…
Software should allow information to be entered once. Once the key information is entered, the desired reports and plans can be created.
Software should also be easy to use and give the LNC or life care planner time to prepare reports and plans, not waste time on computer training! Less time spent in preparation of reports will please the attorney and will open the door for more business.
There is an array of general office and business software, as well as specialized software products, to assist the legal nurse professional.
Specialized software designed specifically to do a particular task will have enhanced functionality. These programs can increase productivity and may allow tailoring work products to reflect the professional’s style and business identity.
Legal Nurse Consultants
LNCs enter the pertinent facts of the case into their chronology. Software that provides the ability to search the information will save time. Searching quickly finds facts and details about a party’s involvement and actions. A compound or multi-dimensional search allows for a subsequent search from the results of the initial search — these are great time saving tools to have.
LNCs also prepare timelines, special reports, deposition questions, expert chronologies and glossaries. Software that allows generation of these documents without retyping is beneficial to the LNC. Software can help create charts that show the story to attorneys and juries (demonstrative evidence). Being able to demonstrate the story in a clear and concise manner will be very helpful when working with the expert witnesses.
Life Care Planners
LCPs need to prepare a document detailing the care and needs of a victim’s future life span who has been injured from a chronic illness or disability. These victims and their families retain counsel to seek compensation, and a clear and understandable life care plan gives them comfort and some peace of mind. The attorney must know what the needs and costs are of such future care. LCPs prepare their life care plan detailing every aspect of care, and use narrative reports, cost reports and age tables to present their plans.
Software designed to remove the burden of manual mathematical calculations from the workload frees the LCP to devote more time to the details of the plan and in presenting the plan in deposition, mediation and trial.
Microsoft Office Suite
There are general products such as Microsoft Office Suite that provide basic tools.
Word processors are very feature rich and allow the creation of very complex and professional documents. Microsoft Word can be used inexpensively to prepare medical record analysis reports and life care plans. Microsoft Word documents are easily e-mailed, a feature that is a life saver when the attorney needs the work products quickly. The drawing toolbar allows text boxes, shapes and arrows to be inserted into the document for annotation. These are beneficial features but there are limitations in sorting, saving and searching capabilities that make these products labor-intensive to use.
Spreadsheets such as Microsoft Excel provide the ability to do a broad range of calculations and present them in a pleasing manner. This type of software also requires significant effort to achieve the desired effect.
This technology converts the spoken word into computer text. This will take the place of keyboard entry. There are several speech recognition products available. There is a learning curve and comfort level that needs to be achieved for the use of speech recognition. Those who have taken the time to complete the start up process have been very successful in using this technique. (Reviewer’s choice: Dragon Naturally Speaking).
There are several products for invoicing, tracking of expenses, income and financial reporting. Be sure to get one that is oriented to a professional setting and allows for time tracking by client and case.
There are software and clip art packages that provide medical illustrations to educate attorneys and juries. Some are available with drawing tools to demonstrate the case. These can range from very expensive to very affordable. (Reviewer’s choice: Smart Draw).
PowerPoint has become the de facto visualization tool for trial exhibits. Scanned medical records, illustrations, timelines and graphics inserted into PowerPoint are formidable in the courtroom setting. PowerPoint is available in Microsoft Office.
It is best to try the software and technology tools that are available and choose the ones that best suit individual needs. Information on these programs and products for nurse professionals are readily found on the Internet.
Sharon Martino is a legal nurse consultant based in Ohio ; firstname.lastname@example.org. Editor’s note: Martino is a partner in Legal Nurse Systems LLC, an advertiser in this newspaper.