What Every Medical Malpractice Attorney Needs To Know About Computer Forensics

    G. Hunter Jones

    Medical mistakes not only may put a patient’s life or health at risk but also lead to an investigation of the practice and, depending on the evidence, potential litigation.

    Evidence of mistakes or unethical behavior by medical professionals can often be found only deep within the metadata of a computer system, a medical record, or a medical image. A computer forensics expert can follow the trail of technological breadcrumbs to uncover factual information that exposes medical mistakes or even their cover-ups. The following real-world scenarios illustrate how the work of a computer forensics expert can help counsel to ferret out critical facts of a case:

    1. A doctor fails to detect a severe birth defect in an ultrasound image. By examining computerized medical records, a computer forensics expert can uncover evidence that indicates which radiologist examined the image and when each examination was conducted. If the ultrasound image has been deleted, the expert can determine when the image was deleted and may be able to recover the lost image.
    2.  A patient fails to show up for a follow-up appointment, claiming that the practice never scheduled such an appointment. An investigation determines that the practice changed the computer system it uses to manage its electronic health records, and the record of the appointment cannot be recovered using the practice’s new system. A computer forensics expert can stand up the old system to inspect the order and appointment history to determine whether the patient’s missed appointment was actually scheduled.
    3. A physician fails to produce a patient’s medical records upon request. A contractor handles the medical records for the practice, and the practice’s staff is unfamiliar with the computer system used to manage the records. As a result, the staff’s efforts to produce a patient’s medical records fail, and the patient claims that his/her records were altered and inadequate. A computer forensics expert can determine whether the patient’s electronic health records were altered or improperly maintained.

    The above scenarios are just a few of the many kinds of disputes that may arise from allegations of medical malpractice.  In any case that involves digitally stored files, computerized images, or medical software, a computer forensic expert may have the skills to gather crucial evidence that could help to decide a case.

    Other Insights from G. Hunter Jones

    Read G. Hunter Jones' review of “Electronic Medical Records and Litigation," a reference and practice manual valuable for both attorneys and forensic experts involved in medical malpractice litigation.
    DisputeSoft was engaged by the LA Times in this software license dispute involving the illegal use to develop a proprietary database, Integrated Circulation Information System (ICIS).
    This installment of DisputeSoft's Computer Forensics series sheds light on how a computer forensics expert can uncover factual information that exposes medical mistakes or cover-ups.

    G. Hunter Jones

    Managing Director & Forensic Examiner

    Hunter Jones has over 40 years of experience as a systems engineer, working in IT consulting and computer system development. As a systems developer, he is intimately familiar with the internals of computer systems, both operating systems and application programs. As a certified computer forensics specialist (EnCase Certified Examiner and GIAC Certified Forensic Examiner), Hunter has established credentials in the fields of computer forensics and electronic discovery. Hunter also has deep knowledge of computer forensics as it relates disputes concerning medical malpractice, video files, patent infringement, and internet misconduct.