Electronic Health Records Could Affect Your Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
Digitizing patients’ medical records and health information was supposed to facilitate patient care. However, now that electronic health records (EHRs) are being widely used by physicians and hospitals around the nation, they may have come with unforeseen problems. The move to EHRs has changed medical recordkeeping significantly—but EHRs could also be an increasing issue in medical malpractice lawsuits.
How Electronic Health Records (EHRs) Play a Part in Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
There has always been some risk of medical errors and mistakes in patient care, but new issues with documentation in patients’ electronic records can complicate these kinds of cases and create unique problems of their own. According to a study by the Doctors Company, only about one percent of malpractice lawsuits involved EHR issues in the period from 2007 to 2013. However, malpractice cases involving EHR issues doubled from 2013 to 2014. While you consider those numbers, remember also that medical malpractice lawsuits can take five or six years to resolve, and the use of electronic records has grown exponentially in the last decade.
Here are some examples of the types of medical errors and patient-care issues that electronic medical records can cause or contribute to:
- Typos and data-entry errors in patient records
- Inaccurate or outdated patient information
- Errors from the use of voice-recognition software
- Use of EHR technology in the exam room that takes eyes and attention off the patient
- Differences between the treatment a patient receives and what is recorded in the electronic chart
- Medication errors
Overall, it seems clear that electronic records are having a big effect on patient care, but the move to digitization is also potentially putting patients at risk.
Who Is Liable When Patient Care Is Affected by the Use of EHR Software
For the patient who doesn’t get needed care, it may not seem to matter who made the mistake—just that an error was made which affected his health or comfort. However, as more and more malpractice lawsuits are looking closely at EHR use in offices and hospitals around the nation, the growing price tag on digital medical mistakes has opened up some big questions about who has to pay when patients are harmed.
Is it the Fault of Doctors and Nurses When Electronic Records Are Inaccurate?
While doctor’s offices and hospitals are usually at the center of medical malpractice lawsuits involving EHR issues, the question of their responsibility may not be as simple as it seems. Patient records printed from electronic records systems don’t always reflect the templates and menu options that the doctors and nurses see when they add documentation to the patient’s chart. Care providers also run into problems with:
- How they were trained to use a system
- How to interpret menu options
- Generic pop-up warnings and alerts that may not apply to an individual patient
- Time spent on health updates prompted by the system, instead of on notes about the patient’s current conditions and complaints
- Use of both digital charts and old paper charts, especially during EHR adoption
- Increased need to review non-urgent documentation from other doctors and facilities
- Use of “cut and paste” to fill in patient documentation
In some recent medical malpractice cases, electronic health records containing discrepancies between the record and actual care provided, inaccurate information, and poor use of generic templates have led to discrediting both the patient’s health record and the doctor’s testimony as evidence.
Are Software Companies Responsible for EHR Medical Errors?
Questions about responsibility in medical malpractice cases are also being turned to the companies that provide EHR software to doctors and hospitals. Many care providers are shifting the blame for poor medical recordkeeping and information gaps to the software that is used, which might include:
- Confusing menu options
- Set drop-down options and fields that limit what is recorded and how
- Prompts and warnings that increase the amount of non-urgent documentation and take time and focus away from more important issues in patient care
Currently, many software companies are protected from lawsuits of this nature, but that could change in the future. Some experts predict that it won’t be long until lawsuits from physicians and medical facilities crop up in an attempt to hold software vendors responsible for errors in patient records.
How the Victims of Medical Malpractice Can Get Answers About EHR Issues in Their Own Cases
Do you need serious answers about the part that your medical record has played in your care? Medical malpractice cases are often complex, and there can be numerous mistakes and failures that play a part in patients not getting the care they deserve. If you have questions about something that happened to you or a family member, or if you want to further investigate how EHRs may have played a part in your case, don’t hesitate to contact our law office at 312-332-1400 or toll-free at 312-332-1400.