A small study of 275 doctors in Massachusetts recently indicates that the use of electronic health records (EHRs) may indeed lessen the number of medical malpractice lawsuit claims filed against those physicians. EHRs are a positive innovation for medical practice, in that patient records can be shared among doctors instantly. The problem for patients is that mistakes can still occur, leading to physical harm from malpractice, despite the best attempts by doctors to avoid mistakes.
One problem exists immediately when EHR systems are introduced to a doctor's office. The transfer of paper records to electronic forms can be tedious, requiring painstaking care to avoid mistakes during the process of making entries. Filing of records is another point at which mistakes can occur. A patient's records could easily end up in another patient's electronic record file. These systems are expensive to implement, but they do benefit doctors and patients when used properly and have resulted in a 6-fold decrease in malpractice claims in the study group.
On the positive side of EHRs, medical records can be easily transmitted wherever needed via the Internet. Doctors who use EHR systems are also more likely to have better overall practices that reduce mistakes, as they are aware of potential problems that may present a risk to them of a malpractice lawsuit. Others disagree, citing the vulnerability of EHR records to entry and filing mistakes. For patients, the issue is one of safety, and that no matter what type of record system is used, mistakes can occur and doctors still can make medical errors.
Source: Chicago Tribune, "Electronic records tied to fewer malpractice claims," Genevra Pittman, June 26, 2012