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Are electronic medical records safer?

Electronic health records brought the practice of medicine into the modern world. These were intended to accurately document information and improve access with other practitioners. But EHRs, especially with badly designed software or templates, may have played a role in medical malpractice claims and have other serious drawbacks.

The Pew Charitable Trusts and several health systems conducted a 2018 study of 9,000 safety incidents involving pediatric patients at three facilities. EHR software played a role, at least in part, in 36 percent of these events. Improper medication dosages were involved in most of these errors.

A 2019 investigative report of EHRs by Kaiser Heath News and Fortune indicated that there were 18,000 EHR-safety events recorded between 2007 and 2018 by the health analytics firm Quantros. Three percent of those led to harm including seven patient fatalities.

The number of malpractice claims associated with EHRs more than tripled from seven per year in 2010 to 23 in 2017 and 2018. Almost 60 percent of medical malpractice claims involving an HER took place in outpatient locations, according to a 2019 Journal of Patient Safety study.  

EHRS are also causing stress and click fatigue among medical professionals which does not help patient safety. Most EHRs require professionals to scroll through inflexible templates and click on boxes in lists governing numerous issues unrelated to the care of a specific patient.

Practitioners must log in after hours to complete checking all the boxes, approve prescription refills, review laboratory results and answer patient inquiries. A study of 142 Wisconsin family practitioners indicated that these providers spent over half of their 11-hour workdays engaged in desktop medicine with almost 90 minutes spent outside normal work hours. 

To obtain routine payment, practitioners may formulate information to meet the EHR format instead of meeting the patient’s best interest. Likewise, to save time, practitioners also overuse copy-and-paste functions to duplicate information from earlier notes. This causes bloated volume that obscures relevant health information or inserts incorrect information in records. The practitioner’s ability to present evidence in a malpractice case is harmed by this practice.           

Malpractice victims may face hurtles gathering evidence and meeting filing deadlines. An attorney can help them find the cause and pursue a lawsuit.