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Are Electronic Health Records Causing An Increase In Medical Malpractice Claims?

Posted Thursday, August 18, 2016 by Tom Degan

According to a recent report, electronic health records may increase medical errors and malpractice liability. The Doctors Company, which is a medical malpractice insurance company, released the report.

The Doctors Company analyzed 100 claims that cited Electronic Health Records (EHR) a contributing factor in the claim. A summary of the report can be found here:

Analysis of EHR Contributing Factors in Medical Professional Liability Claims

EHR-related factors contributed to 0.9 percent of all claims closed by The Doctors Company from January 2007 through June 2014. The report found that between 2007 and 2010, The Doctors Company identified just 2 claims where EHR were cited as a contributing factor. In 2013 the number of claims where EHR were cited as a contributing factor increased to 28, which is a 14-fold increase.

The most common reason the report found that EHR became a contributing factor in a medical malpractice claim was data entry errors. The data entry errors included copying and pasting data without modification, ignoring, overriding, or disabling alerts, warning and reminders, and the use of templates. The report broke this down further, finding that user errors contributed to 64% of the EHR-related claims, and system factors contributed to 42%.

The report did not indicate how many medical errors were avoided as a result of the adoption and implementation of EHR. Instead, the report focused on how EHR have become a contributing factor to medical malpractice claims. Omitted from the report is what role, if any, EHR have played in reducing medical errors. Adoption of EHR was pushed by the Federal government which touted the benefits of EHR including: allowing doctors remote access to medical records, automatic alerts regarding medication errors, automatic reminders for preventative care, and automatically identifying needed lab tests.

Accordingly, it seems likely that the adoption of EHR has prevented at least some medical errors from occurring. Given the limited focus of The Doctors Company report, it is clear more research is needed before any conclusions can be reached regarding the benefits and drawbacks of EHR.

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