EHRs won't decrease malpractice risks, premiums

While electronic health records have the potential to improve patient care, EHR users should not expect such systems to lower their malpractice premiums, as EHRs can create new problems and make it harder to defend against such claims, according to an article in Health Data Management.

Some of the malpractice problems that stem from EHR use, according to the article, include:

  • Disabled clinical decision support alerts that, if used, could have caught a problem
  • Auto complete functions that fill in data incorrectly
  • Sharing of passwords, so that physicians look like they're viewing the chart when they really aren't or in more than one place at the same time
  • Sloppy documentation, such as data entered incorrectly

EHRs also create audit trails, the article points out, making it easier for plaintiff's attorneys to find errors. In addition, the legal costs for e-discovery in litigation can be higher. Malpractice insurers who, in the past, had offered premium discounts to EHR users now are backing off from the practice.

The impact of EHRs on malpractice itself is still undetermined, according to the article. To reduce the risks, providers should take steps such as disabling cut-and-paste functions, halting any password sharing and working with vendors to find easier ways to produce records in the event of a lawsuit.

EHR-related patient safety issues have been recognized as a concern. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services recently published a health IT safety action plan to attempt to resolve some of these issues. The EHR vendor Code of Conduct, released in June by the HIMSS Electronic Health Record Association, also focuses on EHRs and patient safety.

To learn more:
- read the Health Data Management article