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EHRs Play Role in More Malpractice Claims

By Alexandra Wilson Pecci  
   October 17, 2017

There was a continuous increase over the past decade in malpractice claims in which the use of EHRs contributed to patient injury, says a new study.

As EHR usage grows more widespread, so too does the technology’s role in malpractice claims, finds a new study.

The Doctors Company, a physician-owned medical malpractice insurer, found a continuous increase over the past decade in malpractice claims in which the use of EHRs contributed to patient injury.

From 2007 through 2010, there were just two claims in which EHRs were a factor. From 2011 through December 2016, however, that number skyrocketed to 161.

David B. Troxel, MD, study author and medical director at The Doctors Company, noted in a statement that the EHR is typically a contributing factor in a claim, rather than the primary cause.

The Doctors Company says this is its second study of EHR-related claims.

Its latest research compares 66 claims made from July 2014 through December 2016 with the results of the first study of 97 claims from 2007 through June 2014.

Compared with the earlier research, the new study shows that system factors that contributed to claims increased 8%. These factors include things like technology and design issues, lack of integration of hospital EHR systems, and failure or lack of alerts and alarms.

On the other hand, user factors, such as copy-and-paste errors, data entry errors, and alert fatigue, decreased 6%.

Internal medicine, hospital medicine, and cardiology showed marked decreases among specialties involved in claims, while orthopedics, emergency medicine, and obstetrics/gynecology showed increases, the study found.

The study also notes that hospital clinics/doctors' offices remain the top location for EHR-related claim events.

Adoption of EHRs has been relatively fast. Data released last summer showed that only 4% of U.S. hospitals didn’t use EHRsThe Doctors Company study notes that the technology “has great potential to advance both the practice of good medicine and patient safety.”

“However, there are always unanticipated consequences when new technologies are rapidly adopted—and the EHR is no exception,” the study concludes. 

Alexandra Wilson Pecci is an editor for HealthLeaders.

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