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Study: EHR malpractice claims rising


Malpractice claims involving the use of electronic health records (EHRs) are on the rise, according to data from The Doctors Company.

Cases in which EHRs were a factor grew from 2 claims during 2007-2010 to 161 claims from 2011 to December 2016, according an analysis published Oct. 16 by The Doctors Company, a national medical malpractice insurer.

Dr. Robert M. Wachter of the University of California, San Francisco

Dr. Robert M. Wachter

Researchers with The Doctors Company analyzed closed claims during 2007-2016 in their nationwide claims database. Of 66 EHR-related claims from July 2014 through December 2016, 50% were associated with system factors, such as failure of drug or clinical decision support alerts, according to the study. Another 58% of claims involved user factors, such as copying and pasting progress notes. (Numbers do not add up to 100% because some claims had more than one cause.)

The majority of EHR-related claims during 2014-2016 stemmed from incidents in a doctor’s office or a hospital clinic (35%), while the second most common location was a patient’s room. Malpractice claims involving EHRs were most commonly alleged against ob.gyns, followed by family physicians, and orthopedists. Diagnosis errors and improper medication management were the top most frequent allegations associated with EHR claims.

The analysis shows that while digitization of medicine has improved patient safety, it also has a dark side – as evidenced by the emergence of new kinds of errors, said Robert M. Wachter, MD, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, and a member of the board of governors for The Doctors Company.

“This study makes an important contribution by chronicling actual errors, such as wrong medications selected from an autopick list, and helps point the way to changes ranging from physician education to EHR software design,” Dr. Wachter said in a statement.

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