When the medical review panel is formed, the parties are allowed to take depositions and exchange documentation regarding the issues involved in the claim. Frequently, the deposition of the patient and/or his family will be taken by the defense. The deposition of the defendant doctor and/or the nurses involved in the patient's care will be taken by the patient's representative.
Before the parties take depositions or exchange information, a petition to initiate discovery is usually filed in the state district court where the claim will proceed after completion of the medical review panel process. This will allow the court to act as the ultimate overseer of the evidence gathering process.
The complete hospital medical chart as well as the office notes of the physicians involved in the care of the patient are copied and exchanged by the parties. These records include not only the records of the accused physician, but also any subsequent treating physicians and records from previous treating physicians.
The attorney chairman will set a deadline by which the parties must make a submission of evidence to the medical review panel. The evidence which may be submitted to a medical review panel includes all medical records, depositions of witnesses, affidavits of witnesses, medical literature, reports of medical expert witnesses, and a statement or brief setting forth the position of each side, (a position paper).The submission may also include the request for review originally filed by the patient which sets forth the allegations against the health care providers.
Usually, the position paper is the main focus of the submission and selected excerpts from the medical records and depositions are referenced in the position paper and attached as exhibits. This makes it easy for the members of the medical review panel to understand the arguments being asserted with the backup records or documentation specifically referenced and attached.
Once the attorney chairman receives the evidence from all parties, he then coordinates the schedules of the parties and the physician members and the medical review panel and sets a date upon which the medical review panel will meet to review and decide upon the evidence submitted by the parties.
The process of compiling the medical records, exchanging information and taking depositions can take up to a year to complete. Thus, the medical review panel process slows down medical malpractice cases by at least 50%.
If the parties have a dispute about the evidence to be submitted to the medical review panel, they can ask the attorney chairman for a ruling. If they are not happy with that ruling, they can ask the court to intervene.