Managing Even The Most Difficult Logistical Problems In Healthcare Litigation

Tuesday, March 1, 2005 - 01:00

The Editor interviews Jose A. Torres, Chief Information Officer, Medical Research Consultants (MRC). [Editor's Note: To read the Editor's 2004 interview with MRC founder Doreen Wise, visit www.metrocorpcounsel.com and type "Doreen Wise" in the search box.]

Editor: Please tell our readers about MRC's leading edge technology.

Torres: Keeping track of records, especially for mass tort litigation, can be a labor and cost intensive task. That is why we developed WiseFilesª. This knowledge management software incorporates work flow, document management and business processes. With capabilities for Intranet or Internet environments, it can be used to connect teams in a multitude of remote locations.

By storing data in a digital repository, WiseFiles can streamline and capture the flow of an organization's information. It makes delivery of information to any person or group working on a specific task quick and easy. Powerful searching tools enable the user to create simple or complex search queries across content. The user can also easily index data within multiple documents of different formats.

The application can be tailored to any of a number of business styles ranging from legal to HR functions. We use it most often in a legal venue in our support for medical defense in mass tort litigation.

Editor: What flexibility does WiseFiles offer a litigation team in performing searches and generating reports?

Torres: Among its great benefits, the software has the capability for doing advanced searches. The searches can be done through fields that have been stored in databases and on information that is part of a document, whether an image or text. Users can do a content and field search at the same time. They also can be creative with Boolean searches, including those using connectors "and" and "or." Users do not require a programmer to generate an advanced search.

Here's an example. Let's say that you want to find everyone in a given location who was a smoker within the group making claims. You can search by zip code or place name, retrieve information from the records about who smokes and generate an advanced dynamic report. The speed of retrieving information and compiling it into meaningful reports is invaluable to our clients' management of mass tort litigation.

Editor: How does MRC help a litigation team to handle even the most difficult logistic problems?

Torres: The powerful reporting capabilities of WiseFiles are all web based. Users can create an advanced report from anywhere. For example, one of our current projects involves 3,500 users, including lawyers, paralegals and other litigation team members. With other technology, we would have had to either electronically or physically mail thousands of pages all over the country. Using WiseFiles, the data is stored in a live database, where it is easily accessed. Counsel from multiple locations can log on daily to monitor updates.

The WiseFiles reporting tools enable the user to create work flow calendars. At MRC, we use it ourselves to track due dates with ticklers based on plaintiffs, court dates or other docketing information. It makes it very easy for us to see what trials, other events and due dates are coming up so that we can plan our work accordingly.

Editor: Why is WiseFiles simple to use?

Torres: One of the many unique aspects of the software is its navigation tools. Similar software tools are available in the marketplace, but a user has to learn the interface to get the most out of it. WiseFiles is built so that all the user has to do is to navigate simply through an intuitive application to get the most out of it.

Another attractive feature is the software's built-in help desk, which is available 24/7. Our standard is to respond within 15 minutes of receiving a request for help.

In addition, WiseFiles has built-in optical character recognition (OCR) capabilities so that when a document is scanned, the data is automatically converted into text so that the user can search through its content.

With WiseFiles' capability to automate complex page stamping, the user does not have to manually stamp pages.

The downloading tools in WiseFiles are invaluable for users who have a data repository in one location but have to do a large print job in another location. With WiseFiles, large files - like a 7,000-page document - can be downloaded and viewed within seconds. Users do not have to wait for a future download. The data is streamed as needed.

WiseFiles' comprehensive features include mail merge capabilities that enable the user to create a document with the data on the database. The same thing can be done with email and faxes. Data can also be exported directly to other types of software applications. The result is that the user can move data without having to have a programmer create an export file.

Editor: How does WiseFiles help a litigation team to maintain version control and coordinate communications?

Torres: The uploading tools in WiseFiles enable any authorized user to add data to be shared with their collaborators in remote locations. As data is added, identifying information is automatically associated with the version. The owner of the document can control what the others view and what version they view.

WiseFiles helps coordinate communications. For example, in a project involving oversight of five different lawsuits, WiseFiles can automatically send news bulletins to all the litigation team members when the user posts data in the repository. This eliminates the user having to send an email to everyone working on the separate litigations.

The application also has news rooms at three levels. At the WiseFiles level, users can learn about the software and its updates. At the company level, information can be posted about press releases and company wide events. At the project level, information specific to a particular litigation team can be posted. All information in these news rooms is encrypted so that only those who are logged in can view it.

Editor: Please tell our readers about WiseFiles' security features.

Torres: WiseFiles has an advanced security system that enables the user to secure information all the way down to the field level. Encryption is used throughout the WiseFiles application. In addition, WiseFiles gives the responsible attorney a lot of controls over what authorized users can do. Let's say that you have a co-counsel who needs to view the data about a particular case. You can create a log-in for him or her to view only the information for one plaintiff. He or she cannot view any information that you do not want him or her to see. You also have the option of allowing him or her to edit or enter comments on the information, or you can authorize view-only access.

Editor: What provisions have you made for disaster recovery?

Torres: WiseFiles has a built-in feature that writes data to multiple servers. One server is in our data room, and the other is off site. If one building were to burn, instant access would be available in the other.

Editor: Please give an example of how WiseFiles can be used for multiple functions.

Torres: WiseFiles can be used by a company's legal, accounting, human resources and other departments. For example, the human resources department may have a website to which job candidates send their resumes. The candidate can fill out a form on the website with information that can be stored in WiseFiles. The human resources department can then create a query specifying the criteria desired to fill a position, such as number of years of experience or completion of a college or university degree. When the query is launched, WiseFiles can create a report identifying the resumes of the candidates with qualifications matching the specified criteria.

For accounting functions, WiseFiles interfaces with myriad software packages. For example, the user can input time spent or work status into WiseFiles, and the information will automatically flow to the designated accounting package for billing purposes.

For legal functions, WiseFiles can manage an entire litigation including experts, plaintiff information, deposition schedule and work product. WiseFiles can open a variety of data from databases or documents. For example, the plaintiff information, medical records, employment records and work product can all be viewed at the same time. You can even display the data across dual monitors. Calendars, reporting and revision control are tools greatly valued by our clients.

Editor: Why is WiseFiles attractive to both new and sophisticated users alike?

Torres: Instant access to data, real time reporting and the ability to download massive volumes of data to remote locations are attractive to all our users. New users like WiseFiles because the learning curve is very small. Sophisticated users like its advanced searching and reporting capabilities.

WiseFiles' flexibility contributes to its attractiveness. Users can create their own rules appropriate for their specific project. For example, one user can create a storage system based on the names of the plaintiffs; another can be based on the names of the medical experts involved. The data structures can be created within minutes rather than requiring the user to wait days for a programmer to make the changes.

Editor: How does MRC help its clients get their arms around litigation support costs?

Torres: MRC serves as a single source for retrieving, reviewing and serving as a repository for data. With a single source, users avoid the cost and confusion associated with duplication of data. If you have separate vendors, there is a time issue. The first vendor has to retrieve the records and send them to a repository - all of which takes time. In MRC's case, data comes into one floor and never leaves. Within 48 hours of its arrival, the data is easily accessible by the client. You could not accomplish that within the same amount of time with multiple vendors.

MRC is a nurse-owned company, and about 135 of our 430 employees are nurses. This medical background adds to the efficiency of data mining and document review because our team knows what we're looking for.

Editor: Where can our readers learn more about MRC and its services?

Torres: They can visit our web site at www.mrchouston.com or contact me at jtorres@mrchouston.com.