Medical Cannabis

Medical cannabis remains a controversial topic throughout the United States as many states are repealing associated restrictions. Both recreational and medicinal cannabis is now available in a handful of states.  Despite the growing research supporting cannabis as a pain management and rehabilitation tool, the federal government continues to classify cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug. This makes cannabis federally illegal, as well as limits medical studies that would better explore the benefits. 

Cannabis and cannabis derivatives are used to treat the symptoms of many ailments and illnesses, such as cancer, PTSD, AIDS, epilepsy, and more.  According to a 2017 study published in Cancer Chemotherapy and Pharmacology, pharmaceutical cannabis can decrease nausea caused by chemotherapy and almost eliminate vomiting. Cannabis has also been found to relieve the spasticity of the muscles that is sometimes associated with multiple sclerosis and can help treat appetite loss and “wasting” associated with conditions such as HIV/AIDS and certain types of cancers. One chemical compound of the cannabis plant, Cannabidiol (CBD), has been used to treat and reduce seizures in people with epilepsy (specifically Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome). Cannabis is used to treat chronic pain, and in some cases may be used instead of opioids for pain management. (Opioids are highly addictive and are typically not recommended for long-term use in treating chronic pain.)  Cannabis may also be beneficial in symptom management of some mental health conditions, such as PTSD.

While there are many benefits to using cannabis, there is still much we do not know about this plant and its long-term usage. For example, studies have shown that frequent use may seriously affect short-term memory, as well as impair cognitive ability. While there are many ways to ingest cannabis, smoking anything can seriously damage your lung tissue. Immediate side effects of cannabis use may include paranoia, elevated heart rate, anxiety, and impaired motor function.  Long-term effects may include mood swings, lung infections, panic attacks, and memory loss.  Signs of impairment may include red eyes, delayed reaction time, poor hand-eye coordination, lack of concentration, and decreased perception of time and distance.

Cannabis has been implicated in a high percentage of automobile crashes and workplace accidents. A review of the medical record and summary of care often provides insight into the extent and timing of cannabis use in relation to a mishap.  R&G is here to help with reviews of cases involving cannabis.  Please call 623-566-3333 or 1-888-486-2245 for more information about case reviews. 

Virtual Nurse Associate

Virtual Nurse Associate

What is a virtual nurse associate?  
A virtual associate is an independent contract worker who works remotely in support of clients nationally. Typical tasks include administrative, technical, and business support services. Legal Nurse Consultants are well suited to work in a similar capacity serving law firms who may need assistance on a regular or per diem basis. This allows firms to scale staffing to their immediate needs and “right-size” when/if workflow subsides.  

What does a virtual office assistant do?  
Virtual nurse associates do many things including records analysis, case summaries, chronologies, identifying missing records and/or gaps in care, as well as identifying experts. A virtual nurse can do almost anything an in-house nurse can do. A virtual nurse associate can easily maintain office hours consistent with their clients or work in an asynchronous fashion, whichever benefits the client the most.   

Skills Set of a Virtual Nurse Associate  

Working virtually can be a challenge and is not a good fit for everyone.   Some people find working remotely to be isolating and stressful and prefer to work in an office environment.  Nurses are adaptable and are well suited to virtual work.  Characteristics of most nurses include:  

  • Self-starter 
  • Ability to set and see goals through fruition. 
  • Able to manage multiple competing priorities. 
  • Problem-solving skills.  
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills  

Benefits of Working with a Virtual Nurse Associate  

Communication virtually with a nurse associate need not be a challenge. The nurse can adapt their online hours to match that of the client. Should short notice taskings arise the nurse is available, just as an in-house nurse would be.  

Working with a virtual nurse associate is cost-effective in that they can be used as much or as little as needed. No doubt this model increases profits for firms. For example, the nurse could be used for a working surge before trial. If a client needs to “right-size,” no-layoff will occur as the nurse is an independent contractor without any benefits typical of an employee. The Virtual Nurse Associate does not require other benefits from their clients such as sick time, paid time off, vacation time, health insurance, or retirement benefits.  

A virtual nurse is an excellent fit for a firm who is searching for their “best fit” but needs assistance in the interim. If a less experienced nurse is hired, a virtual nurse could also serve as a mentor to the new nurse. Should the new nurse turn out not to be the best fit, the virtual nurse continues to service the firm seamlessly.  

R&G Medical Legal Solutions, LLC has a virtual nurse program, and no job is too big or too small. R&G nurses have a wide variety of backgrounds to include medical-surgical, emergency department, critical care, and long-term care, just to name a few. This allows firms to take a variety of cases knowing R&G can match the virtual nurse to the background of the case. Please contact Pamela Showers, COO at 623-566-3333 for rates and any questions.  

How Chronologies Can Assist the Client in Litigation

May 2021 

Chronologies provide an exact and easy to read timeline of medical events. They are an efficient means to parse out relevant data related to a case. When records are voluminous, or a precise and detailed identification of critical events are needed, a chronology may be warranted.  

There are many styles and formats for creating a chronology. Information such as the date, time, place, and provider of care are identified. Further customizable details such bates numbers, an explanation of medical terms/abbreviations, imbedding of pdf medical record pages, and comments regarding standard of care are sometimes included per client preference. Chronologies can be written in a partial verbatim format whereas the nurse utilizes exact words from the chart, or can a summary be written in the nurse’s own words as an interpretation of events. There is no one size fits all chronology. Sometimes a combination of verbatim and pertinent verbatim can be used to produce the most efficient work product.  Pertinent style may be used for events surrounding the alleged injury, while a summary is used for related but noncritical information. Headers within the chronology can be used to identify information such as the source document and author. 

Microsoft Word or Excel can be used as the foundation for a chronology.  The table format is Word is most common.  There is also specialized software to create work products however, given chronologies are sometimes shared, compatibility can be an issue. 

BATES DATE /TIME SOURCE COMMENT 
Pdf 00123 of 000150  Or  JDOE-WAVERLYMED-00010 03/23/2021  0700 Waverly Medical Center / Bill Smith, MD   23 yo presents to ER with cough x3 days & fever 103.2. SOB, unable to complete sentences without cough  SOB = shortness of breath 
Example of a Chron entry

Small, seemingly unrelated events are often a precursor to an injury. Non-medical staff may lack insight and real-world experience needed to understand the relevance to injury and thus, these details are often omitted from the work product. Nurse provided chronologies are a cost-effective way to obtain relevant case data. Through training and education, nurses have in-depth medical knowledge regarding standards of care and the ability to analyze data and link events to breaches in the standard of care, Missing and tampered records as well as gaps in medical care are easily identifiable to a nurse.  

R&G Medical Legal Solution’s nurses provide accurate chronologies and customizable work products. Please call 623-555-3333 today to find out more information about obtaining case related chronologies.  

What is a DICOM?

DICOM Images

What is DICOM? 

In a clinical environment dealing with any medical imaging, DICOM, short for Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine, has become essential. The broad application of DICOM is not difficult to understand, given the need and usefulness of medical imaging in healthcare. It allows the storage, viewing, and sharing of medical images and related data on devices within and across medical facilities.  
  

The standard communications protocol used to capture, store, and transmit medical images and related information is DICOM. In medical imaging, DICOM acts as a blueprint for the information structures and procedures in medical imaging systems that control the input and output of data. Both the protocol itself and its corresponding file format are referred to by the term. All data acquired in the medical imaging process is stored in this format. Without it, it would be considerably more difficult to exchange information between various imaging devices.  

Differences between DICOM and PACS, RIS, and CIS 

In addition to DICOM, words such as PACS, RIS, and CIS are often discussed , especially when talking about the benefits that have been brought to healthcare by modern software technologies, standards, and protocols. With regard to what differentiates them, this may lead to some confusion, particularly when it comes to the difference between PACS and DICOM.  

Medical IT systems focused on networks of different devices are the former. DICOM is the common protocol and file format that defines the communication between these devices and allows many different systems to communicate equally.  

Now that that’s clear, here’s an overview of the most popular medical IT systems:  

  • PACS (Picture Archiving and Communication Systems) are medical imaging systems that provide multi-modality storage and access to images. Its key application is as a superior storage option that removes the need to store and retrieve data manually. 
  • RIS (Radiology Information System) – Another type of information system for storing and handling medical imaging data widely used in radiological practices is RIS (Radiology Information System). Radiologists typically use it for, among other purposes, scheduling patients, monitoring and interpreting exams, and billing. 
  • As they are applied to the same area and sometimes used in combination, the distinction between RIS and PACS can be a little vague. These are both systems for enabling the handling of patient information, but while PACS provides storage and a long-term patient data management solution, RIS streamlines procedures and enhances workflow by allowing real-time patient monitoring and providing medical records for patients from one central source.  
  • EHR (Electronic Health Record) – EHRs are digital versions of patients’ paper charts. They are digital archives of the entire medical care history of patients. It encompasses medical pictures. EHRs can work in combination with other medical information systems, much like the previously described patient data systems. They can come with a DICOM production, send, or customer, and can be integrated with PACS or RIS as well. 
  • CIS (Clinical Information System) is an information system that documents, stores and manipulates the clinical information of patients. How does this vary, you might ask, from EHRs? EHRs include a patient’s entire medical history and are therefore much more generalized. CIS manages very precise data, obtained directly from inputs from equipment and medical staff. 

In addition to offering countless advantages, such as enhancing workflow and performance, reducing costs and space requirements, these medical information systems allow practices to concentrate more on patient care efforts. In modern medical services, this has made them indispensable.  

To respond to the diverse demands of medical imaging systems, medical technology is continually evolving and diversifying. New kinds of DICOM-compliant applications are constantly being developed, and cloud-based DICOM image viewers have been one of the most important innovations to emerge from this.  

R&G Medical Legal Solutions, is excited to announce that we have developed our very own proprietary online DICOM viewer that is a part of our database management system and will make this service available in the very near future. This will allow our clients to view any records including radiology, 24-7. Please give us a call at 1-623-566-3333 or email us at marketing@rngmedical.com today for a demonstration.  

R&G Medical Legal Solutions, LLC is a highly regarded litigation support services firm.  R&G is a second-generation company headed by Brian Oldham, a retired, service disabled veteran of The United States Air Force.  

Historical Perspective for a Successful Legal Nurse Consulting Firm

R&G Staff 
January 2021 

R&G Medical Consultants, now R&G Medical Legal Solutions, was founded in February 1992 by Rosie Oldham, BS, RN, LNCC. Her background in nursing administration, risk management and quality improvement were extremely valuable in the startup of the firm. 

R&G’s first cases were personal injury and in December 1992, the firm began working on product liability cases (resulting in completion of over 750 cases). This led to staff expansion and rapid company growth. During this project R&G   implemented total quality management procedures. Peer review of work products led to a successful 100% deficiency free submission of claims. From 1994 to 1996, R&G processed over 450 toxic tort cases (water contamination) for the defendants.  In 1997, R&G began focusing on complex medical malpractice and personal injury cases.  

Fast forward to 2021. Use of and incorporation of technology is the foundation of R&G’s continued success to managing large scale projects.  Incorporation of nurse project directors and non-nurse project managers free clients from the administrative burden of coordinating many logistical areas of mass tort. Record retrieval combined with customizable nurse work products allow for one stop shopping for clients.  

Foundational services such as nurse work products that range from in-depth, pertinent verbatim to summaries of care remain a staple.  Hybrid products, such as a combination of pertinent verbatim of key events, combined with summaries of general that capture events in an efficient, cost effective manner are now offered.    

A new service related to radiology films, will be launched in the near future.  Clients will be able to view, manage, and share radiology data online in lieu of tracking and managing CDs.  Key features of the service include cinematographic (CINE) views, digital measuring tools and panning.  

All services at R&G are customizable to fit the needs of each client.  No project is too big or small.  If interested in R&G services please call Catherine Beasley, MS, BSN, LNCC at 623-566-3333 or email cbeasley@rngmedical.com .   

How Veteran Nurses Help Distinguish R&G

Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business

January 2021 

Beth Ann Lumpkin, Lt. Col., USAF, NC (Ret.)

Thousands of registered nurses served as active duty, guard or reserve member in the Army, Air Force and Navy Nurse Corps, even the Public Health Service. Individual service duration varied anywhere between three to twenty years.  

The skills acquired in the military are extremely valuable for the civilian job market. Leading teams, critical thinking, cultural sensitivity, organization, adaptability, attention to detail, varied work hours, and solid work ethic are just a few of the traits Veteran nurses gained while on military duty. These traits make military nurses well suited for legal nurse consulting work.  

Nurses with a military background are highly educated. The structure of the military provided professional military education with each level of rank and nursing specialty. Veteran nurses have a variety of specialties translatable to nurse consulting. For example, specialties include operating room, infection control, quality assurance, midwifery, mental health, aeromedical evacuation, critical care and medical surgical are just a few of the areas for which military nurses have provided care. Military nurses provide care in both the inpatient and outpatient settings, and military nurses are trained in managing acute trauma under battlefield conditions. Military nurses must complete continuing education on an annual basis unlike some requirements from states for civilian nurses.  

R & G is a veteran owned and established business that works with a variety of clients. Highly experience nurse consultants, to include some military nurses, are part of the equation that allows R&G to provide outstanding service.  

Please give us a call today to see how legal nurse consulting at R&G can solve problems for you and/or your firm.  Dial 1-623-566-3333 today.  

HIPAA Certification, To Do or Not To Do

Catherine Beasley, MS, BSN, LNCC 
Dec 2020 

Breaches of protected health information are becoming commonplace.  The US Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil rights now publishes a Breach Report Results which can be accessed at https://ocrportal.hhs.gov/ocr/breach/breach_report.jsf.   

Hospitals and health care organizations must report breaches affecting more than 500 people to the Department of Health and Human Recourses as required by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009.  A breach of more than 500 patients’ information may result in the organization’s name on the Department of Health and Human Resources website.  Simply stated, breaches of protected health information are bad for the business of health care organizations.  Patients are left to wonder about the ability of the organization to provide safe, effective care.  After all, if an organization can’t manage paper, how can they manage safe care?   
 
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) training is now available online by third party vendors.  Training can be done at the convenience of the trainee and both individual and corporate rates are provided.  Seminars ranging from one or two days are also offered nationwide and pricing varies by vendor.   

The Department of Health and Human Services is very clear in that breaches of protected health care information are unacceptable regardless of the number of victims impacted.  However, does having a HIPAA certification mean an organization is better able to secure the personal data of those they serve?  There are two schools of thought to consider.  First, the training and knowledge will support safe practice and thus decrease risk of any potential breaches.  Training will also increase the confidence level of staff in managing protected health information and recurring training allows the trainee access to up to date information regarding HIPAA.   

An opposing view is that the Department of Health and Human Services does not endorse or recognize HIPAA certifications regarding security rules and warns against misleading marketing claims.   

“We have received reports that some consultants and education providers have claimed that they or their materials or systems are endorsed or required by HHS or, specifically, by OCR. In fact, HHS and OCR do not endorse any private consultants’ or education providers’ seminars, materials or systems, and do not certify any persons or products as HIPAA compliant.” 

The HHS website goes on to reflect:  

“There is no standard or implementation specification that requires a covered entity to “certify” compliance. The evaluation standard § 164.308(a)(8) requires covered entities to perform a periodic technical and non-technical evaluation that establishes the extent to which an entity’s security policies and procedures meet the security requirements. The evaluation can be performed internally by the covered entity or by an external organization that provides evaluations or “certification” services. A covered entity may make the business decision to have an external organization perform these types of services. It is important to note that HHS does not endorse or otherwise recognize private organizations’ “certifications” regarding the Security Rule, and such certifications do not absolve covered entities of their legal obligations under the Security Rule. Moreover, performance of a “certification” by an external organization does not preclude HHS from subsequently finding a security violation. 

Given certification is not mandatory it is up to an organization to ensure compliance is achieved.  Investment in training, while not required, is an organization decision based on the level of comfort and ability to meet requirements.   

Breach Portal, (n.d.).  Retrieved 23 Nov 2020  from https://ocrportal.hhs.gov/ocr/breach/breach_report.jsf 

HHS.gov. (n.d.).  Are we required to “certify” our organization’s compliance with the standard security rule?  Retrieved 23 Nov 2020 from https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/faq/2003/are-we-required-to-certify-our-organizations-compliance-with-the-standards/index.html 

HHS.gov. (n.d.) What you should know about OCR HIPAA privacy rule guidance materials.  Retrieved 23 Nov 2020 from https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/privacy/guidance/be-aware-misleading-marketing-claims/index.html 

The Impact of Creative Expression on Aging Adults

By: Deb Rogers

Creative expression through arts and crafts for the adult can have a positive impact on the overall health and well-being for the aging adult. For adults affected with dementia, arthritis and even some with visual impairment, arts and crafts can often impact their quality of life.

Activities such as music, dance, and various forms of art such as painting, writing, and making things by hand can play an important role in maintaining and improving physical, mental and psycho-social well-being. In a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, creative activities can boost cognitive function by stimulating the brain. It may even stir memories or provoke language in someone who struggles to speak. Music for example, can reduce agitation, behavioral issues and encourage movement with clapping and or dance. The older adult with visual impairment or dementia may enjoy activities more tactile in nature such as finger paints, beads, or clay. Activities which involve fine motor skills help to keep joints in the fingers from stiffening. Even rolling a ball of yarn can be therapeutic.

In long term care facilities Activity Directors and Occupational Therapists have long used art to restore and maintain function, promote cognitive skill, concentration and stimulate eye hand coordination. In addition to mental stimulation and general well-being, art also promotes opportunities for socialization preventing feelings of isolation and boredom, depression and increased anxiety. One-to-one programs are often provided in the long term care facility to those who are unable or unwilling to participate with the general population.

Art Therapy is a mental health profession which uses the creative process to help restore a “sense of personal well-being” and is practiced in various types of settings from wellness centers to hospitals and even private practice. Art therapy can provide the opportunity to communicate what may be difficult to express in words, provide and outlet for emotions and increase self-esteem just to name a few benefits. Art Therapy can even help the older adult transition into long term care or assisted living due to life changes.

Remember, art in all forms stimulates creative thinking and the senses; relieves stress and promotes relaxation; prevents isolation, loneliness and boredom; improves muscle tone and stimulates eye hand coordination; prevents depression and anxiety and improves cognition.

Sources:

http://www.americanarttherapyassociation.org/SeniorToolkit/SENIORTOOLKIT.pdf

http://www.arttherapy.org/upload/whatisarttherapy.pdf

http://www.aplaceformom.com/blog/10-17-14-facts-about-senior-isolation/

http://www.boomers-with-elderly-parents.com/elderly-activities-crafts.html

http://www.holidaytouch.com/retirement-101/senior-living-articles/creativity-and-aging-benefits-of-art-on-senior-health

http://www.nursinghomeactivitiesresource.com/crafts-for-seniors.shtml

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0890406599000213

Trends in Nursing Home Litigation

Nursing home lawsuits have become one of the fastest growing segments of health care litigation. There are nearly 17,000 nursing homes in the United States that currently care for 1.7 million residents, a figure that is expected to quadruple to 6.6 million residents by 2050.(1)  Over 90% of the nursing home residents are over the age of 65, and almost half are over the age of 85; the average age is more than 80.(2)   Issues of concern in care may include: adverse drug events, falls with injury, pressure ulcers, faulty medical equipment, problems with tube feeding, restraint usage, malnutrition, dehydration, residents rights violations, elopement, and abuse and neglect.

Federal definitions of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation appeared for the first time in the 1987 Amendments to the Older Americans Act. These definitions were provided in the law only as guidelines for identifying the problems and not for enforcement purposes. Currently, elder abuse is defined by state laws, and state definitions vary considerably from one jurisdiction to another in terms of what constitutes the abuse, neglect, or exploitation of the elderly. Broadly defined, elder abuse definitions may be categorized as follows: Physical abuse is defined as the use of physical force that may result in bodily injury, physical pain, or impairment. It may include, but is not limited to, such acts of violence as striking, hitting, beating, pushing, shoving, shaking, slapping, kicking, pinching, and burning. In addition, it may also include the inappropriate use of drugs and physical restraints, force-feeding, and physical punishment.

  • Sexual abuse is defined as non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with an elderly or disabled person or with any person incapable of giving consent. It includes, but is not limited to, unwanted touching and all types of sexual assault or battery such as rape, sodomy, coerced nudity, and sexually explicit photography.
  • Emotional or psychological abuse is defined as the infliction of anguish, pain or distress through verbal or nonverbal acts. Emotional/ psychological abuse includes, but is not limited to, verbal assaults, insults, threats, intimidation, humiliation, and harassment. In addition, treating an older person as an infant, isolating an elderly person from his family, friends or regular activities, giving an older person the “silent treatment”, and enforced social isolation are examples of emotional/ psychological abuse.
  • Neglect is defined as the refusal or failure to fulfill any part of person’s obligations or duties to an elder. Neglect may also include failure of a person who has fiduciary responsibilities to provide care for an elder (e.g., pay for necessary home care services) or the failure on the part of an in-home service provider to provide necessary care. Neglect typically means the refusal or failure to provide an elderly person with such life necessities as food, water, clothing, shelter, personal hygiene, medicine, comfort, personal safety, and other essentials included in an implied or agreed-upon responsibility to an elder.
  • Exploitation is defined as misusing the resources of an elderly or disabled person for personal or monetary benefit. This includes taking Social Security or SSI (Supplemental Security Income) checks, abusing a joint checking account, and taking property and other resources.(3)

Estimates of the frequency of elder abuse range from 2% to 10% based on various sampling, survey methods and case definitions.(4) In 2013, state long term care Ombudsman programs nationally investigated 135,620 overall complaints of abuse, gross neglect, and exploitation on behalf of nursing home and board and care residents. Among seven types of abuse categories, physical abuse was the most common type reported.(5)

As the incidence of elder abuse rises, more programs and techniques are being developed by facilities and federal and state organizations to protect our aging population. “Grammy Cams” are being utilized in some states (currently 7 states). This allows families or residents to install surveillance cameras in their room in the nursing care facility. Several states (e.g. California and Maine) are now utilizing Elder Death Review Teams (EDRT) to evaluate nursing home deaths that may be linked to abuse and neglect. Most states now require background checks for all paid caregivers and those with criminal backgrounds are prohibited from caring for elders in nursing homes. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are providing more orientation and education to their staff on recognizing and reporting signs and symptoms of abuse.

(6) Long term care organizations and associations are pairing with government agencies to promote public awareness of elder abuse and reporting mechanisms. State and federal survey agencies are focusing on abuse in nursing homes and have initiated procedures for timely investigation of complaints of abuse and neglect. Even one incident of abuse is unacceptable and we, as health care providers and litigators have an obligation to protect and defend our elders.

The National Center on Elder Abuse — www.elderabusecenter.org
State Long Term Care Ombudsman Programs — www.ltcombudsman.org
National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (NCPEA) — www.preventelderabuse.org
National Association of Adult Protective Services Administrators (NAAPSA) — www.naapsa.org
US Department of Justice, Office of Victims of Crime — www.ojp.usdoj.gov
US Administration on Aging — www.aoa.gov
American Society of Adult Abuse Professionals and Survivors — www.ASAAPS.org

References:
1 U. S. House of Representatives, Committee on Government Reform, Minority Office
2 Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Department of Health and Human Services, Health Care Industry Market Update: Nursing Facilities. CMS, 2002:43.
3 National Association of Adult Protective Services Administrators; National Center on Elder Abuse; Elder Abuse Awareness Kit; April 2001, pg. 4.
4 Lachs, Mark S. and Karl Pillemar, Oct. 2004, “Elder Abuse,” The Lancet, Vol. 364: 1192-1263.
5 National Ombudsman Reporting System Data Tables, 2013 – 2014. Washington DC: US Administration on Aging.
6 Long-Term Care Services in the United States: 2013 Overview