EHR Use May Lower Malpractice Risk
Electronic health records have started to gain wider acceptance amongst physicians and hospitals, in spite of some concerns about increased malpractice risk due to misuse of the technology. Many physicians have expressed concern about switching to EHRs from traditional paper records.
However, it seem that at least for now doctors and practices can relax a bit more. A new study published recently in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that physicians who use EHRs lower their rate of malpractice claims by 84%.
The small study involved 275 doctors in Massachusetts between 2005 and 2007. The researchers documented the adoption and use of EHRs and the malpractice claims that were filed during that time, and compared it to the malpractice claims of those same doctors starting in 1995.
The researchers admit that there may be other factors affecting the drop in malpractice claims. “For example, physicians who were early adopters of EHRs may exhibit practice patterns that make them less likely to have malpractice claims, independent of EHR adoption; these early adopters contribute a disproportionate amount of time in our analyses, favoring an effect of EHRs on reducing malpractice claims,” the researchers explained. The adoption of EHR may also improve the likelihood of a successful defense against malpractice suits.
One researcher not involved in the study warned that practices may have to wait longer to see the true effects of EHRs on malpractice claims. Many questions have yet to be answered, including whether EHR technology will permit more medical decisions and communications to be investigated in court.
The researchers conclude that, “while this study includes only a small number of post-EHR claims, it suggests that implementation of EHRs may reduce malpractice claims and, at the least, appears not to increase claims as providers adapt to using EHRs.”
[ Image by: Phil Roeder]