Mistakes happen. Knowing this, physicians pay a great deal of money each year for professional liability insurance – to protect them financially in the event of a lawsuit due to medical negligence. Seeing as approximately 98,000 Americans die each year due to medical errors, according to the Institute of Medicine, physicians are right to take such precautions. However, with the adoption of electronic health record software, and the help of healthcare technicians and EHR law experts in properly implementing the software, physicians could see malpractice claims dwindle.
While proponents of EHR software have long argued that electronic, versus paper-based, charting has the potential to eliminate (or at least significantly reduce) human error, there wasn’t any proof to back the claim – that is, until now. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine this past June suggests that “implementation of EHRs may reduce malpractice claims and, at the least, appears not to increase claims as providers adapt to using [EHR software].”
For the study, titled “The Relationship Between Electronic Health Records and Malpractice Claims,” Harvard researchers interviewed 275 Massachusetts physicians, first in 2005 and later in 2007, regarding malpractice claims. During that time, the doctors reported a total of fifty-one claims. A notable fact, however, is that of those fifty-one claims, only two took place after the physicians had implemented an EHR system.
“We found that the rate of malpractice claims when EHRs were used was about one-sixth the rate when EHRs were not used,” said the study’s researchers. “This study adds to the literature suggesting that EHRs have the potential to improve patient safety.”
It is important to note that, while the aforementioned study was concluded in 2007, EHR adoption didn’t really pick up until after the creation of the EHR Incentive Programs in 2009. Therefore, although EHR software may have the potential to improve patient care, only time will tell whether EHRs might also reduce the risk of malpractice lawsuits – with or without the help of EHR law specialists.