In May 2019, Medical Economics reported that there is a rise in medical liability claims involving electronic heath records (EHR). An EHR system should help keep patients’ information current and readily accessible, thus helping to avoid mistakes. While these databases have numerous benefits, electronic health record systems only work as well as the software that runs them, the training the doctors and medical staff have in using them, and the daily work of keeping the systems current and accurate.
A 2017 study by the medical malpractice insurance insurer The Doctors Company showed an upward climb in the number of EHR-related malpractice claims:
“The report found two closed EHR-related claims between 2007 and 2010. Between 2011 and 2013, the number jumped to an average of about 23 claims each year. The upward trend continued in 2014, 2015, and 2016: where a total of 92 EHR-related malpractice claims over the three years, or an average of about 30 per year, were closed.”
Medical Economics went on to report that a 2015 study, published in the Journal of Public Safety, found similar outcomes. Their data revealed that 80% of these claims “involved moderate or severe harm to the patient.” The EHR errors tended to include:
- Medication errors
- Diagnostic mistakes
- Complications in outpatient treatments
What is causing these problems?
EHRs were supposed to make things easier for doctors AND patients, by ensuring that a patient’s entire history could be found in one place. However, some primary care doctors can spend half their days entering patient information to comply with regulatory requirements and billing needs.
Some of the problems can be attributed to technical problems and human errors such as:
- A computer bug or virus
- The system crashing
- System fragmentation (the information isn’t in the correct spot)
- Data redundancy
- Entering information incorrectly
- Relying on data automation to complete records
In addition to all of this, some doctors’ offices and hospitals may have multiple EHR systems, which can lead to confusion.
Using an electronic health record system should streamline things, but so far, it only seems to lead to more frustration – for patients and healthcare providers alike. Very real and very serious injuries can result from EHR errors. If you are harmed because of a problem with your health record, you can file a medical malpractice claim to recover damages.