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Electronic Health Records Carries New Malpractice Risks

Jason Reese

Electronic health records (EHRs) have been infinitely useful for improving medical record documentation. Anyone who has ever attempted to read a doctor’s writing knows that any system must be better than the one where doctors frequently use a pen and paper. Unfortunately, the American Academy of Pediatrics is warning that EHRs carry new and different medical malpractice risks.

Since claims often take 3-4 years to surface, EHR-related medical malpractice suits are just beginning to show up. This, of course, means we don’t know the full extent of the frequency of these cases. Regardless, the advantages of EHR systems are so significant that a return to paper and pencil is unfathomable. Instead, medical facilities and doctors must find a way to minimize the risk of malpractice related to EHRs.

Why Does EHR-Related Medical Malpractice Occur?

Patient safety issues arise for reasons related to the EHR system itself and to user error. Both are relatively complicated challenges to solve. User error can be minimized, but a human element always includes the possibility of mistakes. Problems with the system itself can be complex and, even more importantly, very expensive to resolve.

Forty-two percent of EHR-related malpractice claims arose out of system errors. EHR system errors that can result in medical malpractice include poor system design, technology or system failure, insufficient space for proper documentation, and interoperability issues. For example, many systems don’t have full functionality for child-related documentation. Full pediatric functionality would require the system to allow for weight-based dosing of prescription, but many systems do not allow doctors to make such a specification. Interoperability issues arise when different systems fail to sync well or do not sync at all. Doctors who believe they will have access to their office’s system can find themselves without access to key records if they need to see their patient in a hospital or other facility.

An even larger proportion of medical malpractice suits arising out of electronic health record systems is attributed to user error. 64% of EHR-related malpractice claims are due to user errors such as inputting incorrect information, problems with converting or merging health records, copy and paste errors, and alert fatigue. Doctors are supposed to provide an ongoing health history for each visit, but EHRs have made it easy for them to copy and paste previous reports, thereby avoiding typing repeated information. The problem is when the condition has changed slightly or there is a mistake in the older record. This can negatively impact the treatment of a patient as long as the information is improperly maintained in the file.

Did a Medical Documentation Error Result in Serious Injury or Death?

If a mistake in reading, interpreting, or utilizing your medical health records resulted in a serious injury, you may be able to recover damages for additional treatment, loss of wages, and other costs. Though it may be intimidating to think about suing your doctor for medical malpractice, the experienced attorneys at Wagner Reese can handle the burden for you. We will not require any payment unless your case is settled or won in your favor, and the initial consultation is free. Call us today at (888) 204-8440 to begin.

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