Camera offers reliable documentation tool

Photographs can be an invaluable tool for legal protection of a wound care program, especially programs that take patients who may be treated at several levels in the continuum of care.

At the Trinity Valley Medical Center in Palestine, TX, photographs are taken of each wound at least once a week, says Phillip Morton, RN, infection control coordinator at Trinity Valley. For about a year, the hospital has been using the Polaroid Health Cam 2, distributed by Briggs Health Care Products of Des Moines, IA. The Health Cam 2 was specifically designed for documenting patient and resident conditions and clinical progress.

"It’s simple to use," Morton says of the camera, which has a close-up lens useful for photographing wound and skin conditions. "We also use the photographic documentation mounts that are included in the kit." The mounts have space to document the date and time of a photo, a signature of the person taking the shot, the patient’s name and medical record number, and a drawing of a human figure to pinpoint where the wound is located, its size, and other pertinent details.

"If it entails a risk management issue, I recommend keeping two copies of the photo," says Morton, who stores the second set separately from those that go in the medical records. "It’s a safeguard measure." Another safeguard is the consent form that Trinity Valley has each patient sign prior to being photographed.

Consent form clarifies responsibility

Although Briggs offers consent-to-photograph forms, the hospital uses its own version. "Ours has a clause that releases the hospital from any liability. The photographs help with nursing homes that send their patients over to us. When the patients are released from the hospital, the nursing home might say that the patients got bedsores while they were here. But when the hospital has a photograph of the bedsore taken at the time of admission, they see otherwise. We’re trying to be responsible."

[Editor’s note: For a catalog of documentation tools, contact: Briggs Health Care Products, 7887 University Blvd., P.O. Box 1698, Des Moines, IA 50306. Telephone: (515) 274-9221. Fax: (515) 274-6213.]