A Proactive Resource for Documenting the Pandemic
Life during a pandemic is something few of us will soon forget. But five years from now, how well will you remember the specifics of day-to-day details if you are called on to testify during a lawsuit?
"By the time we get past the pandemic and a case makes its way through the legal process, it's likely that a lawsuit related to the coronavirus will reach the courtroom in about five years," Bill McGowin, VP of legal operations for Inspirien, said.
Memories fade and staff change jobs and move to other cities, which can make it difficult to track down information to put together a defense years after the fact. To help providers take proactive steps to avoid this situation, Inspirien, a Montgomery-based malpractice insurance company, has developed a free downloadable toolkit to serve as a template for documenting care and context during the pandemic.
"In addition to day-by-day tracking of details related to care and to how the pandemic is developing locally and nationwide, the toolkit helps to create a roadmap that can offer valuable insights when dealing with the next wave or another health crisis in the future," Debbie Franklin of Inspirien said.
Although we are already months into the Covid-19 crisis, providers who aren't already using the toolkit can start now, while memories are fresh and details can be easily accessed and noted.
"You can record your coronavirus response plan, the number of rooms and ICU beds set aside for Covid-19 patients, and protocols for care," Franklin said. "The toolkit's Daily Journal can be especially helpful in painting 'a day in the life' of the situation as it was on any given day.
"In addition to any emergency declarations or shutdown measures in effect and the number of cases in the local area, state and nation on a specific date, you can record the daily patient census, number of confirmed and suspected coronavirus cases, and the staff working on the various units. Supplies, PPE, testing equipment and other available resources can be recorded, as well as each patient's condition and any changes in the treatment plan."
The toolkit includes a guide for setting up a binder to collect any communications from the CDC and other agencies as well as communications with patients, the community, signage and copies of notes from staff meetings.
"Hospitals have done a great job of keeping covid units separate from other patients and in protecting both their staff and the community," McGowin said. "The Covid-19 pandemic is taking us into unknown territory. We can't really say what will come next, but we can document what is happening now and use it as a guide to help us be ready for whatever challenges may come."
Franklin said, "At the end of the tool kit, there is a space for a binder entry on lessons learned. When the crisis has passed and time allows, we need to review how we did, what worked well, what needs improvement and what we need to change so that we can do a better job next time."
Although designed for hospitals, the Covid-19 Documentation Toolkit can be a helpful starting point to build similar documentation for other health care providers. The printable download is available free on the Inspirien website.
The Covid-19 pandemic has been called a once in a century event. However, we can't assume it will be another hundred years before we face a new crisis. The 20th Century also had a polio epidemic and HIV. Ebola continues to try to break out of Africa. Zika, MERS SARS 1 and new strains of influenza are still out there, waiting for an opportunity to gain a foothold on vulnerable populations.
If we've learned anything thus far from the course of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, it's that there are few things predictable about it. What initially looked like a couple of weeks of disruption has turned into months, and now months are beginning to look like years before the pandemic is behind us and life returns to normal.
Whatever comes next, legally or medically, we need to be ready to meet the challenges. The Covid-19 Documentation Toolkit can be a helpful guide in working toward that goal.
To download a free copy, go to https://www.inspirien.net/covid-19-documentation-toolkit/ and click the toolkit download.