For medical malpractice attorneys, IT systems hold a treasure trove of information

Statue holding justice scales
With the transition to EHRs, Health IT systems hold the key to defending and prosecuting malpractice claims. (Pixabay/AJEL)

EHRs provide medical malpractice attorneys with a glut of information to both defend and prosecute medical malpractice cases—but only if they know where to look.

Healthcare systems are required to keep detailed audit logs that track when a patient’s medical record was accessed, by whom and what information was entered or changed. That data can be used by attorneys to better understand why a specific medical error occurred and whether a physician was at fault, wrote Jonathan H. Lomurro, an attorney at LomurroLaw in Freehold, New Jersey, in The Legal Intelligencer.

EHR audit logs aren’t the only source of information. A broad understanding of the provider’s entire IT system can provide additional clues. Pathologists and radiologists, for example, may access the EHR through a software portal. Lomurro added that depositions from IT personnel can be “invaluable assets in litigation” to help explain the unique intricacies of a medical record system.

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“Knowledge of the programs, software and data map will greatly assist in the actual physical examination of the record,” he wrote. “It is important to remember that the printed version is not the actual record; EHRs were not built to be printed. They were built to be interactive and accessed through portals.”

For several years, attorneys have highlighted the game-changing impact of EHRs on malpractice cases with some arguing EHRs could increase liability. Republican leaders have said frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits are forcing providers out of business—but researchers argue that doctors are paying less for insurance than they were more than a decade ago.