Electronic health records (EHRs) seem like a good idea at first glance. These systems can provide more accurate health records, record treatments, reduce errors based on handwriting and provide all treating health-care providers with access to the same patient data.
However, a recent white paper from AC Group, a Texas-based health IT research and consulting firm, suggests that the rush to implement EHRs may actually expose physicians to a greater risk for malpractice lawsuits as many introduce technically inadequate EHRs that are missing important components.
The paper calls on federal officials to slow the adoption of a federal incentive program, which mandates that hospitals and medical practices begin using EHRs by 2014 or face Medicare penalties. The “artificially short deadlines” for implementing the EHRs could cause vendors to cut corners and rush training and testing, the authors warned.
“As is often the case, technology is advancing more rapidly than our ability to identify and address medicolegal issues. The result of this uneven progression is that physicians and other stakeholders may be unknowingly exposed to medical liability risk,” they wrote.
The white paper examined the functionality of 42 ambulatory EHRs and found that almost 90% couldn’t provide drug-lab alerts; more than 80% did not run drug interaction checking during the prescription refill process; and 60% did not automatically update clinical decision support to reflect changes in recommended treatments. Most EHRs also do not take into account social or family medical history in creating alerts, and do not check drug orders against laboratory results, the report indicated.
Other EHR critics warn that these systems increase malpractice risk by creating an overwhelming volume of information that health-care providers may not be able to read completely. Clinicians may then be accused of not providing a thorough patient assessment.
EHR vendors should consider external reviews of their products for potential medical malpractice concerns, the authors recommended.