Mismanagement of medical records attributed to 22 migrant deaths, lawsuit claims

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Software malfunctions and misuse of medical technology have resulted in the deaths of 22 detainees in Immigration and Customs Enforcement between 2013 and 2018, according to a Dec. 1 Politico report.

Department of Homeland Security's "inadequate" records management, medical technology and software contributed to the 22 deaths as well as poor care of thousands of migrants, according to lawsuit records obtained by Politico. The lawsuit, brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center and other organizations in August, claims ICE improperly documented patient care and "scribbled documentation in the margins of forms," according to the report.

Border Patrol uses paper records to exchange information about patients when they're being transferred and ICE uses an EHR system, the departments told Politico.

Migrants detained by ICE are subject to "delays in medical care, refusals to accommodate disabilities, and nearly constant isolation," according to the lawsuit, the publication reports.

The Southern Poverty Law Center claims DHS has failed to maintain comprehensive medical records of migrants. Each month, tens of thousands of migrants are moved through detention centers between Border Patrol and ICE; children are sent to HHS' Department's Office of Refugee Resettlement. When these individuals are sick, their caregivers are left with medical records that often are incomplete or unreadable, said healthcare providers and immigration activists, according to the report.

"I typically get a combination of scanned paper records and some printouts from [EMRs]," said Parveen Parmar, MD, an emergency medicine physician at University of Southern California who has reviewed records of detainees on behalf of immigration lawyers, according to the report. "The records are challenging to read, generally completely disorganized, and records often reflect minimal/poor charting that doesn't meet a community standard of care."

To access the full report, click here.

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