Legal Benefits of Mobile Digital Documentation for Human Services Agencies.

Author:Pollack, Daniel
Position:Legal notes

Documentation is one of the most crucial aspects of proof that workers meet their required legal standard of care. Many of the advantages of digital documentation over paper documentation are self-evident. Digital documents:

* can be edited.

* are instantly accessible.

* lend themselves to audit and compliance inspection.

* are less likely to be lost.

* are easily duplicated.

* are easily stored.

* ensure a consistency and conformance of reporting style.

* are easily retrieved.

* are secure.

* are usually searchable.

* can be easily shared.

* are cost-effective.

* are accessible to many workers simultaneously.

* are environmentally friendly.

* can be seamlessly integrated with back-office systems.

With all the above advantages, is there room for improvement? One of the most important concerns is the need to allow workers to record narrative notes without being bound by their office computer.

During the busiest part of the day a residential group home worker on a field trip realized that the medicine he was supposed to administer to a client had run out. He called his supervisor for assistance. The supervisor said she'd take care of getting more medicine and would ensure that the client received it. In the rush of the day's activity the supervisor forgot to follow up and the worker never documented the phone call. When the client subsequently sustained lasting medical damage and a lawsuit was filed, the digital record was no help to the worker. The worker had recorded his conversation on paper but had never transferred it to the digital record. The supervisor had not recorded the incident at all. A contemporaneous verbal note via mobile technology to the electronic file by the worker would have been the crucial piece of evidence to provide legal cover for him.

The recent headline, "Arizona Department of Child Safety going mobile" should not really be news. (1) With the ubiquitous availability of mobile technology via smartphones and tablets, human services agencies need to ensure that client records can be easily accessed while workers are in transit. Yes, there are barriers to moving to this technology--cost, education, and training--but financial barriers are coming down, and education and training are as much a matter of commitment as anything.

Failures in internal and external communication come up as a major factor in lawsuits against human...

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