Playing With Half the Pieces

Would you ever play a game of chess with only half the pieces? If you did, would your opponent be willing to accept a draw? That is effectively what injury lawyers are asking going into their first settlement negotiation. Their position is only supported by an outdated health record from their document service provider. They take this weak information up against a stubborn opponent that knows the Time Value of Money better than they do. Result: Delay!

As information drives Wall Street, the earlier and more complete information, the better the investor. Would it be wise to make a $53,000 investment with outdated and limited information provided by a service that doesn't care about success? Any investor would feel more comfortable with fresh and more complete information. Think of Gordon Gekko in Wall Street. His advantage was real-time information to beat those that are still reading the newspaper.

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Today, we are seeing that same transition in plaintiff law. There are those that are moving to a live stream of health information compared with those that are comfortable with stale news. The economics, though, go much further than just the leverage gained in the single case with higher and earlier settlements. This automation allows the firm to have more bandwidth for more cases. Settlement time, settlement value and case volume are multipliers of each other, so even a small improvement in these metrics has a dramatic effect on the profitability of the firm.

Plaintiff attorneys have accepted, as fact, that they have to give up control of the facts with their current process. They give up power to others that are not concerned with critical detail, or share the goal of a fair settlement for their client. They let themselves be subject to the care providers' interest to minimize their own financial loss. Extra effort is rarely made to include more than what was requested or with any great urgency.

The care providers are capped by law the amount that they can charge to share health information. It can seem exorbitant as the consumer; however, the cap is proof the fair value of the service is more. It's often two or three-fold. These fees come across as "facilities fees". The service providers that actually prepare the documents (paper or PDF) will add a service fee on top of that. These service providers might be an outsourced staff of the care provider, or they may be a middleman that only serves to expedite the process. There are at least three parties that touch the document before it reaches the secure portal. Regardless of how quickly a document service claims they can satisfy the request for information, the process still allows up to 30 days to comply and will provide only the minimum.

So, we understand that there are already many parties involved, all charging their "service" fee. They have very little actual control of the delivery of the request for information. What should also be clear is that they are driven by margin; minimize the loss, or maximize the profit. The details they include are simply the minimum necessary to get the attorney to go away before the request costs them more money.