Medical Research Resources for Paralegals

Medical information available on the internet has grown and diversified in both the quantity and quality of materials. Every month, more information is added and it becomes challenging to sift through the many options to find the medical research you need for your case. Traditional search engines do not focus on medical sites, and therefore some very valuable sites are overlooked.  

Below is a sampling of sites that will search for and retrieve up-to-date, applicable and current medical literature from peer-reviewed sources.

National Library of Medicine 
A very large database and the efficiency of a search can be aided by a review of the MESH (medical subject heading) “trees” at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/ mesh/. There are multiple databases to search, including clinical trial studies, a hazardous chemical database, and the Medline Plus database. 

Medline is the NLM’s premier bibliographic database covering the fields of medicine, nursing, dentistry, veterinary medicine, the health care system, and the pre-clinical sciences. Medline contains bibliographic citations and author abstracts from more than 4,300 biomedical journals published in the United States and 70 other countries. The file contains over 11 million citations dating back to the mid-1960s. Coverage is worldwide, but most records are from English-language sources or have English abstracts. Medline is free and is accessible from various sites, such as Medscape, Pubmed, and Healthgate.

The Pubmed database was developed in conjunction with publishers of biomedical literature as a search tool for accessing literature citations and linking to full-text journal articles at Web sites of participating publishers. Publishers participating in PubMed electronically supply NLM with their citations prior to or at the time of publication. If the publisher has a Web site that offers full-text of its journals, PubMed provides links to the site, as well as sites to other biological data, sequence centers, etc. User registration and/or a fee may be required to access the full-text of articles in some journals.

PubMed provides access to bibliographic information which includes Medline as well as the out-of-scope citations (e.g., articles on plate tectonics or astrophysics) from certain Medline journals, primarily general science and chemistry journals, for which the life sciences articles are indexed for Medline. The site includes citations that precede the date that a journal was selected for Medline indexing and some additional life science journals that submit full text to PubMedCentral and receive an NLM qualitative review.

Medscape is a multi-specialty Web service for clinician and consumers that combines information from journals, medical news providers, medical education programs, and materials created for Medscape. A combination of peer-reviewed publications, a free version of drug information via the “First Data Bank File” and free Medline are available. Healthfinder, http://www.health finder.gov, is a free gateway to reliable consumer health and human services information developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Healthfinder can lead you to selected online publications, clearinghouses, databases, Web sites, support and self-help groups, as well as the government agencies and not-for-profit organizations that produce reliable information for the public. 

MD Choice.com was founded by academic physicians whose goal is to make access to the Internet’s vast health and medical information as efficient and reliable as possible for healthcare professionals and consumers. MDchoice.com combined the content of several award-winning medical Web sites including NetMedicine.com, Physician’s Choice, and EMBBS.com (The Emergency Medicine and Primary Care Home Page). A panel of board-certified physicians in the United States evaluates the Web’s medical content.

Guidelines Clearing House is a public resource for evidence-based clinical practice guidelines. NGC is sponsored by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (formerly the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research) in partnership with the American Medical Association and the American Association of Health Plans. A medical term search will retrieve objective, detailed information on clinical practice guidelines. Search results will obtain: structured abstracts (summaries) about the guideline and its development, a utility for comparing attributes of two or more guidelines in a side-by-side comparison, syntheses of guidelines covering similar topics, highlighting areas of similarity and difference, links to fulltext guidelines, where available, and/ or ordering information for print copies and, annotated bibliographies on guideline development methodology, implementation, and use.

Additional Medical Research Sites

The links below will most often take you to that particular medical field's national organizations.  There you will find links to multiple resources, the latest articles on treatments, medical studies, and much more.  

Anesthesiology

Cardiology

Chiropractic

Emergency Services 

Endocrinology

Gastroenterology/Liver

General Medicine

Hematology

Infectious Disease

Internal Medicine

Obstetrics/Gynecology

Midwifery

Neurology

Oncology

Optometry

Orthopedics

Pediatrics

Pharmacy

Physical Therapy
Physiology

Plastic Surgery

Podiatry

Preventative Medicine

Psychiatry

Pulmonology

Radiology

Rheumatology

Preparing Medical Chronologies -Tips for Reviewing Medical Records

Preparing a flawless paralegal medical records chronology or summary for your attorney can require years of experience. The important thing is to be well-versed in legal and medical terms  and also understand the nuances of civil litigation. Often, with a few days left before trial, paralegals at a personal injury law firm may find themselves face to face with an intimidating stack of medical records that are to be reviewed for preparing a medical case chronology and summary report can be created. 




Medical chronologies are appropriate reports for most types of medical legal cases.  Non-medical lay-people aren't used to flipping through charts to find the pertinent information related to a patient's case or claim.  A medical chronology solves this problem by listing all pertinent information in chronological order making it easier for all involved to understand the patients injury, treatment, and possible future medical issues.  Additionally, a medical chronology identifies critical information such as the provider and type of record.   

The challenge is that paralegals with little training in medical terminology, treatment procedures, and other relevant aspects of the records may have to identify and report important details such as pre-existing conditions and treatment gaps. Any injury claim requires the preparation of a chronological medical summary that will help those in the case to understand the nature of the injury, the patient’s past medical history and its impact on the injury, and other vital information. 

An attorney can evaluate a claim only after completely understanding the injury and its relationship to the incident in question. Paralegals have the option of utilizing medical record review services that will help submit timely medical records summary reports for attorney review, but more often than not a paralegal will do the bulk of the medical chronology, if not all of it. 

The medical chronology plays a significant role in any claim or case. It is significant in that it will be used for discovery and investigation, for preparing for the trial, for reporting to the claims adjuster, and for preparation of exhibits and used as reference when examining witnesses.
What are the important elements of a medical records chronology in litigation such as a personal injury? i have created a list of items of significance to note when reviewing medical records. 
  • Date of Injury or DOI: This is a critical element in the summary. The attorney may need information regarding one specific injury only. But the paralegal must highlight all injuries that are related to that particular injury. The DOI helps distinguish one injury from another in a plaintiff’s medical chart.
  • Causation of the injury or illness as reported by the patient
  • Diagnosis or diagnoses
  • Treatment Providers and Dates of Treatment: Information regarding the various providers and the dates on which the services were provided is crucial in a personal injury case. This information will be used throughout the court proceedings.
  • Treatment plan (s) which would include diagnostic reports, prescriptions and referrals
  • Prognosis or the likelihood of recovery
  • Permanent impairment, if any
  • Future medical needs, if any
  • Information about prior as well as unrelated medical treatment, if any
  • Deciphering and summarizing physicians’ and nurses’ notes and handwriting. The paralegal must be familiar with common medical abbreviations. The abbreviations can be used in a summary if everyone using the medical summary is familiar with them; if people unfamiliar with such abbreviations will be using the summary, then the full form of the word or phrase should be provided.
  • Definition of medical terms can be included in a medical summary for quick reference.
Medical record review for litigation or insurance claims is a very important task that paralegals are entrusted to perform. The medical summary will help the attorney understand the various aspects of the case and find the information she/he is looking for quickly. A good medical chronology or summary can be critical to the outcome of the case or claim for your client.

10 Common Mistakes Newbie Paralegals Make (and how to fix them!)

It’s too much to expect that anyone stepping into a brand new position will do a letter-perfect job on day one.. but nothing builds dumb confidence quite like a college degree and zero experience! Paralegal mistakes will happen.  Read on to see the most common mistakes you will want to avoid as you start your career! 


paralegal mistakes andhow to fix them






As a brand new paralegal, fresh out of school, you’ll feel like you’re ready to take on the world. Then you’ll humiliate yourself with a stupid mistake. The kind that makes you cringe and want to crawl under a rock every time you think about it for years to come.

It’s inevitable. And just as inevitably, you’re going to beat yourself up about it. The key is to get out ahead of these things and spare yourself the embarrassment – and the self-flagellation that follows.

Even experienced paralegals make mistakes, and god knows you’ll see lawyers themselves make plenty of them. But there are certain mistakes brand-new paralegals seem to be famous for making. Be Warned …(check out how to fix your mistake at the end of our list!)

Giving Legal Advice

Every new paralegal runs afoul of this mistake at some point despite having repeatedly been hammered in school that the unauthorized practice of law is strictly prohibited and sometimes rises to the level of a criminal offense.

It’s an easy mistake to make. Sometimes it’s just to friends and family, eager to draw on your freshly minted expertise in the field for some free consultations. Sometimes, and much worse, it’s helpful advice to a client who seems worried and needs reassurance. But it can come back to bite you and it’s best to put a lot of room between yourself and legal advice or anything like it until you have a few years under your belt and know where the fine lines are drawn.

Misfiling Documents

You’re told all through your training that details matter, that being detail-oriented is the most important part of being a paralegal, that it’s your responsibility to get every little thing correct in everything you do. But it doesn’t really sink in until the first time you slide a folder into the wrong file and come up missing crucial documents at a critical moment. There’s not a lot you can do about this except double down on your attention so you don’t have to learn the hard way.

Mishandling Potential Clients

Lawyers and experienced paralegals know that the key to a successful law practice is in picking winning cases. It’s not your skill, it’s not the lawyer’s skill, it’s not crucial sleuthing out on the streets… it’s picking clients and cases that can prevail in court.

But new paralegals have seen too many TV shows and haven’t yet become hard-boiled professionals who can see through a sob story and tell when a client is lying. At first, you’ll probably do poorly at filtering out the bad risks. This is another area where  experience becomes your best friend—but you can be sure your employer will be happy to help until then.

Missing A Deadline

Missed deadlines are unfortunately all too common in American jurisprudence. Even in the most serious of cases, capital crimes where defendants face the death penalty, the New York Times found 80 cases where legal teams failed to file crucial documents in their client’s defense on time.

There are no statistics kept in the wider world of law, but you’ll see plenty of missed deadlines in your own career… and you’ll probably be individually responsible for a few of them yourself. It’s a terrible feeling and one you’ll want to avoid as much as possible.

Violating Confidentiality

Some of the things that come across your desk will be so outrageous, so hilarious, or so interesting that you’ll just have to tell someone. But that someone had better not be anyone outside the office, because if it is, you’ll have violated one of the most sacrosanct strictures of legal practice… client confidentiality. It’s no easy task to keep your lips sealed at happy hour with friends and family but it’s a habit you’ll have to get into if you hope to have a long legal career, because violations can be serious and could result in you being the one on the receiving end of the criminal justice system.

Failure to Disclose a Relationship or Other Conflicts of Interest

Outsiders are always surprised how seriously ethical conflicts are taken within the legal community. You’re primed through popular culture to be used to lawyers and law firm staff sleeping with clients, gossiping with other firms, or otherwise behaving in a cavalier manner about conflicts of interest. But when you become a practicing paralegal, you’ll need to learn to take it seriously, because everyone around you will. If conflicts of interest emerge, you need to be forthright and frank about communicating them, even if they are uncomfortable to share.

Not Tracking Your Time Closely

Law firms live and die by billing. Although trends are changing, that’s still primarily hourly billing, in increments of one-tenth of an hour… every six minutes on the clock needs to be accounted for and accurately attributed to the relevant case or client. Just keeping track of all those time segments is a lot of work, and there’s a lot of pressure to drive up the time spent to increase billable hours. You’ll be in a lot of hot water if you can’t attribute your time to individual cases, no matter how hectic your day has been.

Not Knowing Court Rules

It’s not intuitive that different courts have different rules and standards for esoteric legal matters like document formatting and filing, but they do… and a failure to learn and apply those rules has brought the axe down on many a new paralegal. If you don’t know the rules for your jurisdiction, you had better at least know how to look them up… and not be afraid to do so when you have a question.

Calendaring Errors

Although missing a deadline is among the worst offenses a paralegal can commit, there are whole other categories of calendaring mistakes that new paralegals routinely make. From scheduling new client appointments while the attorney is supposed to be in court to mistaking calendar days for business days in docketing matters, the calendar is a minefield for new paralegals – and only experience will help see you through safely.

Being Overly Dependent on Your Attorney

Reacting to many of these other possible mistakes can create a new one that paralegals sometimes make… becoming overly dependent on the attorney to answer hard questions or avoid obstacles. But paralegals are there expressly so attorneys won’t have to do all this detail work. If you’re not serving as a resource for your attorney instead of bogging them down, you’re not doing the job you were hired to do.


So...what do you do when you have made one of these common paralegal mistakes? 

Read below for tips on how to fix your mistake and survive! 
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