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Every litigation matter involves its fair share of documents, but dealing with medical records quickly can become overwhelming, a fact hardly anyone knows better than Litigation Management Inc. LMI has built a business around helping attorneys analyze medical histories for litigation, and in early 2007 it took the next step by launching SmartCase, a do-it-yourself tool for the legal world. SmartCase is a Web-based service that allows you to store and analyze relevant information for medical litigation matters. And, since the service is online, all of your users, clients and co-counsel can access the information at any time from any computer connected to the Internet.
SmartCase shines best as a conduit of information between litigation teams at a law firm and nurses or medical experts hired to review relevant medical information. The medical experts can analyze and summarize records directly on the SmartCase Web site.
The service is extremely appealing for lawyers who prefer not to hire an army of IT professionals to maintain computer servers. While it’s true that the costs of hard drive space continue to go down in today’s world, it still takes a major investment in overhead to sustain storage networks and hire personnel to maintain those systems. SmartCase handles all of the back-end hassles — all of your records are stored on SmartCase servers in LMI’s secure facilities with redundant copies in case of a disaster. SmartCase also can upgrade its software and add new features with minimal or no downtime to you.
As with any Web-based service, you access the system by visiting a Web site — www.smartcase.com. One person from your firm is assigned as an administrator who can add and manage users, customize reports, upload a logo for branding the site and generally oversee the maintenance of the site, such as changing billing and shipping information and general account information.
Once you are logged into the SmartCase system, the first thing you do is add a client. This creates a “SmartCard” that links to associated information, such as cases, chronology setup and lab charts. The SmartCard is a delightfully concise box of information that usually is located on the left side of the screen when you enter SmartCase. If you are in the “My Clients” area, a client SmartCard appears. If you are in the “My Subjects” area, then the subject SmartCard appears, which contains information on a case and the names of individuals involved in a case. A subject is an individual who has suffered ill effects or death from a medicine, medical device, occupational exposure or a physician’s treatment. For example, if your client is a drug company, then each “subject” is going to be an individual who has suffered from side effects of the medicine. This allows you to track a subject’s medical history. The SmartCard is a good visual cue for access to pertinent information and keeps information from being scattered all over the screen.
Once your client is set up, you create a new case by clicking on “My SmartCases.” You enter a case caption, or the title of the case, along with a deposition and trial date, and there is additional space for adding comments. Next, you enter information regarding each subject in the “My Subjects” section of SmartCase. Obviously you will want to be as detailed as possible, and the subject information screen allows you to add demographic information about each subject, such as address, Social Security number and date of birth. Each subject SmartCard also allows you to link to any relevant electronic files or documents, and provides a link to appropriate records such as lab reports. For example, you either can upload your own PDFs that you have created or scanned to your computer into SmartCase, or you can send a box of documents to SmartCase so LMI can scan and tag all of the documents and upload them into the case for you.
Before you can add any records, however, you need to specify the origin of the records in the “My Sources” section of SmartCase. Adding a source allows you to specify a medical facility or physician’s office as the source of the particular records. Once a source is in the database, it becomes accessible from a drop-down menu when you create a new record so you always can link back to the source of the information.
One of the most powerful tools in SmartCase is the ability to create chronologies that link together all relevant case, client and record information. SmartCase allows you to select and customize keywords that can be included in a chart to track that specific keyword topic. I also appreciate the fact that you can enter customized “Assigned Dates” for records that either don’t have a true date or that have illegible dates (e.g., from an old X-ray or faxed document).
Once you have done all the grunt work of building an informative database, you can create an “Executive Summary” to present to the client. SmartCase provides a very functional HTML word processor in the system, which includes font and formatting tools. By clicking the “Build” button at the bottom, you can import data into the executive summary from the chronologies that have been built for each particular subject.
While I appreciate the functionality that the word processor provides, SmartCase does warn you that the system will “time out” after 60 minutes of inactivity for security reasons and it highly encourages users to save frequently. The included word processor worked fine for me when I tested it on two browsers but I recommend everyone try it for themselves. Fortunately, SmartCase allows users to test drive the software for 10 days or receive a free trial for 14 days.
I found SmartCase to be functional and intuitive. Once you become proficient in the system, you might find SmartCase a little slow for your taste but that is to be expected with any online service — it’s never going to be quite as fast as software running locally on your computer. So, make sure you have high-speed Internet access, especially if you will be uploading documents.
For independent nurse consultants, paralegals and attorneys who work with a variety of different teams, SmartCase One is a great value. SmartCase Pro, on the other hand, is more suitable for larger law firms and corporate legal departments because of its additional online storage for voluminous records collections. While SmartCase might not be the comprehensive answer for every medical litigation matter, I certainly can see independent professionals using this to provide their clients with amazing access to a wealth of information about their medical litigation matters.
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