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Maricopa County officials are set to tackle jail inmate care with a new $10 million electronic medical records system.
The electronic medical records system is designed to improve inmate care and is being rolled out after officials failed to properly document and manage medical data for thousands of jail inmates, the Arizona Republic reports.
From 1998 to 2009, the county paid out $13 million in legal fees, settlements and jury verdicts to inmates and their families for injury and death claims against the Correctional Health Services.
The new system will centralize medical records and will help to reduce the county's scattered paper files and limited computer records.
In addition, the electronic medical records system will help to track inmates' conditions, allowing medical staff to make sure they are housed in appropriate conditions.
Inmates are entitled to medical care and attention as needed to treat both short-term conditions and long-term illnesses. The medical care provided must be "adequate."
The electronic medical records system will cost $10 million to purchase and will be installed over the next several years.
A key feature of the system allows medical staff to document trends and measure performance.
Although the electronic medical records system will be rolled out shortly, dozens of lawsuits are still pending.
In 2008, U.S. District Judge Neil Wake deemed conditions in the jails unconstitutional and urged officials to buy an electronic medical records system to minimize risk to patients and legal vulnerability to taxpayers.
Attorneys working on behalf of inmates say they are pleased the court is working to ensure that conditions at the jails meet constitutional minimum requirements as quickly as possible.
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