Electronic Medical records could give rise to more medical malpractice risk
side note: Medical malpractice tied to electronic health records is likely to see a boom in the coming years as the Affordable Healthcare Act, which mandates EHR usage, takes hold. It should be interesting.
Electronic health record (EHR) systems will likely soon become a fixture in medical settings. Advocates claim they will reduce healthcare costs and improve medical outcomes, which could be critical since the new healthcare reform law increases access for millions of Americans. Although benefits of bringing information technology to health records can be substantial, EHR systems also give rise to increased liability risks for healthcare providers due to possible software or hardware problems or user errors.
Two Case Western Reserve University professors, in a scholarly article published in the Berkeley Technology Law Journal, shed light on liability concerns and electronic health records systems. Until now, such a linkage has received little attention in the legal literature.
Sharona Hoffman, professor of law and bioethics and co-director of Case Western Reserve’s Law-Medicine Center, and her husband, Andy Podgurski, professor of computer science at the university’s School of Engineering, have written “E-Health Hazards: Provider Liability and Electronic Health Record Systems,” which offers a comprehensive analysis of the liability risks associated with use of this complex and important technology.
Hoffman and Podgurski are well known for their research and findings documenting a national need for effective EHR regulation. They analyzed the need for federal regulation of electronic health record systems in the scholarly article “Finding a Cure: The Case for Regulation and Oversight of Electronic Health Record Systems” (Harvard Journal of Law and Technology, 2009). That paper came after two previous publications by the two on security and privacy issues of electronic health records.
“This new piece focuses on healthcare providers’ liability. Are they at greater risk for malpractice claims? Are they at greater risk for privacy breach claims? And I think the answer to all of that is yes,” Hoffman said. “It’s very personal to healthcare providers. It’s what everybody who sits at that computer and uses it to manage patient care needs to know.”
At first glance, a quick transition to digital heath records seems a normal, even overdue part of the wider flow of high-tech change. It may seem surprising that many healthcare professionals continue to jot down notes and prescriptions on paper.
Even so, many doctors might not be fully aware of the fresh liability risk, Podgurski said. Problems providing care can arise, for example, if an EHR system contains software bugs, if it is too complicated, or if training for users is insufficient.