Posted in EHRs

As EHR use grows, so do EHR-related malpractice claims

Chris Nerney
Chris Nerney, Contributing Writer |
As EHR use grows, so do EHR-related malpractice claims

The premise behind electronic health records (EHRs) is that they enable better healthcare by improving access to patient data at the point of care, facilitating collaboration, and increasing efficiency.

But many healthcare providers argue that EHRs instead create unnecessary administrative work that robs physicians and other clinicians of time that could be spent with patients. Now a new study by The Doctors Company also shows a steady rise in the number of EHR-related malpractice claims.

“The pace of these claims has grown over the past 10 years, from a low of two cases in 2007 to 2010 to 66 cases from July 2014 to December 2016,” the physician-owned malpractice insurer said.

Adoption of basic EHRs by provider organizations soared to 83.8 percent in 2015 from 9.4 percent in 2008, according to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC).

The increase in closed claims from July 2014 to December 2016 was driven by claim events occurring in patient rooms, The Doctors Company said, while claims related to treatment in hospital clinics/doctors’ offices, ambulatory/day surgery centers, labor and delivery, and ERs saw a decline.

“We found that 50 percent of these claims were caused by system factors such as failure of drug or clinical decision support alerts and 58 percent of claims were caused by user factors such as copying and pasting progress notes,” the study report said. Some claims, as the percentages indicate, were triggered by dual causes.

Diagnosis-related allegations were the most common, increasing to 32 percent of claims, up from 27 percent in a previous analysis by The Doctor Company of 97 EHR-related claims that closed from January 2007 through June 2014.

Technology problems contributing to EHR-related claims include poor integration of health data from multiple sources, lack of provider access to the EHR due to network problems, insufficient area on the user interface for documentation, and lack of security tools such as firewalls, encryption, and passwords to maintain protected health information (PHI).

User mistakes that generated malpractice claims include copying and pasting incorrect or outdated information, careless data entry, and failure to notice EHR alerts.