Honesty is the best policy when preparing a report

Health care assessors often have to defend reports in court. This can be an anxious experience. Heeding the following advice might help mitigate the anxiety.

Honesty is always the best policy. Even if it means accepting that you made a mistake. Trying to deny or rationalize error rarely ends well. Litiga­tors are experts at punching holes in a piece of evidence. Attacks on assessor credibility or professionalism are not outside the rules.

Assessors should only offer enough information to answer questions. They must also be able to confidently and re­spectfully dispute any attempts made by counsel to mischaracterize a report.

When assisting professionals in report-preparation workshops, it’s shocking to see the number of errors. Assessors must realize that any error in the report, whether it’s clinical content or just spell­ing, is grounds for challenge.

Counsel can easily attack credibility and attempt to show bias. A common problem is the use of paltry informa­tion. An appropriate report must also use professional and objective language. Assessors offering purposeless com­ments or information might be chal­lenged. When an experienced litigator draws attention to signs of partiality, a pattern of bias can be uncovered, whether actual or perceived, and the evidence – your report – is rendered meaningless.

Details are critical. The assessor must be accurate even when presenting quali­fications and accomplishments. All infor­mation in a report is fair game. Claiming to have authored a text will come under fire if you were, in fact, a co-author.

Be careful about your knowledge of the current literature in your area of expertise. There is a huge body of research, and claiming to know some­thing you don’t is easily attacked. Such minor inaccuracies can be used by a litigator to make the assessor appear as though qualifications are being exag­gerated.

Start and end times of examinations are often questioned, so one must pro­vide exact times, not approximations. Claimants have often handed me letters from their legal counsel informing the claimant about the assessment process, about how the observations will begin prior to the claimant actually entering the examining room and how important it is to only provide enough informa­tion to answer relevant questions. These letters also instruct the claimant to copy down the assessor’s questions, the responses provided and the start and end times. This is why assessors them­selves must also keep accurate records of examinations.

Even when small errors are brought to light by a cross-examiner who has little else to attack, the assessor can often deflect doubt by simply being honest.

No Comments

Categories Insurance Services | Tags:

Social Networks: Facebook, Twitter, Google Bookmarks, del.icio.us, StumbleUpon, Digg, Reddit, Posterous.

You can follow any follow up comments to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

Comments are closed.