How do electronic health records lead to malpractice claims?

Every hospital and doctor's office have seemingly moved to electronic health records -- but that may be putting some patients in danger.

The Doctors Company, which is a medical malpractice insurer founded by doctors, released a study in 2017 that indicates that electronic health records (EHRs) are an increasing source of medical malpractice claims. According to their analysis, EHRs were only a factor in 2 claims from all of 2007-2010. By comparison, there were 161 claims involving EHRs from 2011-2016.

How do electronic health records end up leading to medical mistakes? Here are some of the factors that were documented by The Doctors Company on review:

  1. System failures: EHRs are generally designed to give providers alerts when there are potential problems with drugs or clinical decisions. Doctors sometimes rely on them to excess, letting the computer make the calls instead of using their own good judgment.
  2. Input errors: When nurses and physician assistants make mistakes entering information into an EHR, that leaves the doctor relying on incorrect information.
  3. Copy and paste errors: Sometimes, information gets "lifted" from another patient's file and pasted into the wrong record. Other times, critical information is accidentally deleted from a file. Either way, that can lead to massive errors in a patient's care.
  4. Incompatibility errors: Amazingly enough, some hospital systems can't even read the EHRs from another department -- forcing doctors to make decisions without all of the important information.
  5. Alert fatigue: Unlike some EHRs that don't provide enough warning of danger signs in a patient's chart, other systems seem to issue so many alerts that it's impossible to keep up. After a while, nurses or doctors may start to simply overlook them because they're so common.

Anything that compromises the quality of the medical care you receive can lead to tragic mistakes. If you believe you've been a victim of medical malpractice, find out what can be done to help you.

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