Malpractice Claims Increase with the Use of Electronic Health Records

Why do malpractice claims increase when Electronic Health Records are used?

According to The Doctors Company, a Napa-based medical malpractice insurance company with 78,000 members, the increasing use of electronic health records (EHR) is causing an increase in medical errors and, therefore, in malpractice liability. The Doctor’s Company reports settling almost 100 claims between 2007 and 2014 that were related to the use of EHR. The vast majority of these claims were for diagnosis-or medication-related errors; the latter included prescription, administration and dosage mistakes.

Denise Moore, public relations director of the The Doctors Company, points out that it takes 4 to 5 years for the resolution of a claim from the time it is originally filed. While the study showed very few claims related to EHR at first, the rate of claims related to electronic records increased enormously as the study went forward. Between 2007 and 2010, only two claims in which EHR was a contributing factor were reported. By 2013, however, that number had increased to 28. By the first half of 2014, 26 claims related to EHR had already been closed.

The Office of the National Coordination for Health Information Technology reports that the use of EHR increased 500 percent in non-federal acute care hospitals in the years between 2008 and 2013. Where in 2008 only 9 percent of hospitals were using EHR systems, by 2013, EHR systems were in use in 93 percent of those hospitals.

Though both human error and technology issues have been cited as causes of malpractice claims, the data clearly shows that EHR systems accelerated the rate of errors made. These errors included:

  • Data entry errors
  • Health records tracked in multiple formats
  • Health records stored in multiple places
  • Errors in converting paper files to digital ones
  • Copy and paste errors

Many of these mistakes could be traced to a failure in EHR training. The largest number of them occurred in either a doctor’s office or hospital clinic (43 percent). High numbers of errors also occurred in ambulatory surgery centers, patients’ rooms, operating rooms, emergency rooms, and during labor and delivery, radiology and imaging, and dentistry and oral surgery.

The study also reported faults in the technology itself, such as:

  • Failure of system designs (like outdated templates)
  • Systems unable to communicate with one another
  • System failure
  • Insufficient documentation

There were varying rates of medical mistakes in different medical specialties. Most EHR-related claims involved cardiology, oncology, gastroenterology, primary care, obstetrics and gynecology, surgical specialties (other than cardiac surgery), nursing, radiology, anesthesiology, and general surgery.

As modern medicine makes great strides against disease and in innovative surgical techniques, and as EHR are almost universally in use, there is an increased possibility of medical mistakes. Though some medical errors are inevitable, some are the result of negligence. If you believe you are a victim of medical malpractice, you should contact a medical malpractice attorney with a strong track record of settlements and verdicts, one who will fight vigorously to make sure you receive the compensation you deserve.