Healthcare News & Insights

Study: Malpractice claims dropped after EHR adoption

Despite the benefits of electronic health records (EHRs), many doctors fear they may increase some risks — including the risk of being hit by malpractice claims.

For example, some observers warn that the increased documentation made possible by EHRs will give plaintiffs’ lawyers more information to exploit as they bring cases against doctors.

On the other hand, others argue that EHRs should reduce malpractice claims because they help doctors avoid mistakes that endanger patient safety in the first place.

Who’s right? The latter group, according to a recent study conducted by a team of Harvard-affiliated researchers. The study used surveys of a random sampling of physicians in Massachusetts conducted between 2005 and 2007.

The physicians were named in a total of 51 malpractice claims. Of those claims, 49 were related to events that occurred before an EHR adoption, while just two were related to events occurring after an EHR adoption.

Researchers also looked at data from a major malpractice insurer from the state and found that the rate of malpractice claims when doctors used EHRs was about one-sixth the rate of claims when they did not.

Of course, the researchers warned against making too much of a generalization from such a small sample of claims. Also, they noted, the doctors in the study using EHRs were early adopters of the technology, and those physicians may exhibit other qualities that make them less susceptible to malpractice claims.

However, the group found similar results in a study conducted in 2008 — among 1,300 physicians surveyed, 6.1% of those using EHRs had paid a malpractice claim, compared to 10.8% of those not using EHRs.

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