Electronic Health Records May Be More Dangerous Than Helpful

May 20, 2015 | Crandall & Pera Law
Electronic Health Records May Be More Dangerous Than Helpful

Electronic health records, or EHRs, are increasingly being included in medical malpractice lawsuits. The transition from paper records to electronic records has many stumbling blocks, not least of which include data management. In addition, the complexities of new record keeping systems can be challenging to doctors and nurses; learning to navigate new computer systems is daunting.

An article published recently in Politico names EHRs as a main cause of medical malpractice cases in the eyes of insurers as well:

“According to a review by The Doctors Company, the largest physician-owned U.S. medical malpractice insurer, EHR issues were involved in only 1 percent of a sample of lawsuits concluded from 2007 through 2013. But that finding could be deceptive since it takes five or six years to close a suit, and during that period the numbers of such cases grew rapidly as electronic health records become more pervasive in hospitals and physician offices. The pace of these cases doubled from 2013 to early 2014.”

The lawsuits allege a variety of mistakes, from typos to imperfect voice recognition, that result in medication errors and bad status updates. Sometimes, the information contained in an EHR does not link up with reality. “In one case, a patient in septic shock had suffered gangrene and a severe skin rash, but computer records read ‘skin normal.’ They also showed repeated physician interviews with the patient — when she was comatose,” according to Politico.

A spokesperson for the Electronic Health Record Association said the industry “takes very seriously the need to enhance the well-documented ability of EHRs to increase patient safety. It also recognizes the importance of looking for opportunities to identify and reduce any potential risk associated with development and use of EHRs.”

However, the commitment of the industry to making EHRs safer and more valuable does not help when faulty medical records or prescription errors put your or your family at risk. The errors go beyond typos and misuse; the complexity of medical diagnoses can be difficult to relate in digital form. When doctors take an EHR as gospel, there can be significant information gaps that lead to fatal misunderstandings.

It is vital to understand the role that EHRs play in medical malpractice cases. While they offer an opportunity to increase safety and help doctors make better decisions, it should be understood that EHRs are still very much in their infancy. We will continue to bring you more information about how EHRs can affect your standard of care. In the meantime, if you have been misdiagnosed or untreated because of faulty records, please contact Crandall & Pera Law for a free consultation at one of our office locations throughout Ohio and Kentucky.