Utilizing Medical Narratives

Friday, November 22, 2013

O.C.G.A. § 24-8-826 allows for an examining or treating licensed medical doctor to provide a medical report in narrative form that has been signed and dated. The narrative shall be admissible to the extent in evidence insofar as it accurately reflects the examination of the patient, the history of an illness, the doctor’s diagnosis and treatment, the prognosis, or finally the interpretation of examinations or tests results. This narrative may include opinion of the person signing the report with regard to etiology of the injury or disease as part of the diagnosis.

The medical narrative statute explicitly states that a doctor signing a narrative may give an opinion “with regard to the etiology of the injury or disease.” Id. The party using a medical narrative is required to provide notice to the opposing party of its intent to introduce the medical narrative into evidence. The purpose of the 60 day notice in O.C.G.A. § 24-8-826 is to permit the opposing party to explore the doctor’s opinion in his narrative. The opposing party can choose if it wants to depose the doctor or hire its own expert to rebut the doctor’s opinion.

The purpose of O.C.G.A. § 24-8-826 is to afford the parties a simple and relatively inexpensive way to present medical evidence. Many doctors charge upwards of $500 per hour for depositions. Using a medical narrative to present their testimony is a much more cost effective way to present testimony without having to pay the extra expense.

Furthermore, medical narratives are written in laymen’s terms making the testimony easier for a jury to understand. For example, in a wrongful death brought against a city by a decedent where a surgeon was prevented by the city from performing emergency surgery in a timely manner, that surgeon gave an opinion via a medical narrative that a proximate cause of the death was a delayed surgery resulting from the surgeon’s detention. Dalton v. City of Marietta, 280 Ga. App. 202 (2006). This doctor “expressed the opinion that Bradley Dalton, in all likelihood, would have survived had he not been prevented from caring for him. This constituted a properly expressed medical opinion . . . under OCGA § 24-3-18 [the former Medical Narrative statute, which is relatively identical to O.C.G.A. § 24-8-826]. Since such opinion would be admissible at trial upon appropriate notice, it was admissible here on summary judgment.” Id. “So long as medical narrative reports express the relevant information in prose language that is more easily understandable to laymen. Other medical records which would require an expert analysis to demonstrate their import are still subject to a hearsay.” Id.

In sum, medical narratives are a beneficial tool for attorneys to use. The narratives provide an easier and cost effective way to present doctor testimony. They also provide doctor opinions in nonprofessional terms that can be clearly understood by a jury. - See more at: http://mcaleerlaw.com/news/view/14-utilizing-medical-narratives/#sthash.nAR00JHu.dpuf

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