EHRs can increase docs' medical malpractice liability

Electronic health records can increase a provider's malpractice exposure, according to an article published in Oncology Business Management.

The article notes that EHRs initially were envisioned to reduce medical errors, but surmises that hasn't yet occurred. Instead, it says, EHRs are causing or contributing to malpractice problems. Lingering issues include:

  • Computer glitches and design flaws, such as a restrictive drop down menu, which can cause medical errors
  • The "transparency" of EHRs themselves, which makes it harder to hide mistakes or sloppy work habits
  • The increased documentation requirements and resulting desire to use templates and other shortcuts, which can lead to discrepancies in the EHR
  • The inability of EHRs to catch some errors, such as dosage mistakes

EHRs increasingly are being found to create new, unanticipated legal problems. They also are changing the nature of medical malpractice lawsuits.

"Each time a doctor deviates from EHR guidelines designed to reflect standards of care, the system's implicit disagreement with the decision could be used as evidence in a malpractice suit," the article notes. "In other words, a system acquired to reduce medical errors and defend against lawsuits could become an effective witness for the plaintiff."

The article offers several strategies to reduce the risk of medical malpractice liability when using EHRs. These include spending more time documenting, including the use of free text; adopting policies and safeguards regarding proper record keeping; conducting regular audits; and documenting in real time the reasons for overriding an EHR suggestion or alert.

To learn more:
- read the article