8 Malpractice Dangers in Your EHR

Neil Chesanow


August 26, 2014

In This Article

Copying and Pasting Text: Tempting, but Dangerous

Many doctors complain that an EHR slows them down. To regain some of that lost time, they may use shortcuts, such as cutting and pasting lengthy patient histories from one electronic chart to another. How might this affect a malpractice case against you?

Sharona Hoffman, JD, Professor of Law & Bioethics at Case Western Reserve University School of Law in Cleveland, Ohio, and an expert on the potential pitfalls of EHR use in liability suits, says that copying and pasting information from one electronic record to another is among the worst things you can do, clinically as well as legally. "It seems to be happening at a fever pitch today," she laments.

One problem is that incorrect or outdated patient information may be copied from one record to another, which can undermine a malpractice defense. Another is that copied and pasted information can make patient histories so lengthy that it can be difficult for the doctor, or other clinicians, to quickly locate relevant facts.

"You should see the five-page garbage I get from other MDs' EHRs when I request patient records," one doctor told Medscape. "They are nothing but electronic copy-and-paste junk and add nothing to patient care."

In addition, large blocks of text repeatedly copied in the EHR are easily revealed by a plaintiff attorney in the discovery phase of a malpractice suit. It suggests that you were not really engaged in patient care and may cast doubt on anything else you may say in your defense, Hoffman points out.

"Case law establishes that physicians can be held liable for harm that could have been averted had they more carefully studied their patients' medical records," Hoffman wrote in the Berkeley Technology Law Journal.[1] "For example, Short v. United States involved a patient whose doctor failed to diagnose his prostate cancer in time for it to be cured. The court held that under Vermont law, the physician violated the standard of care by failing to review the patient's past visit notes, which would have elucidated the nature of his problem."

For all the problems it can cause, cutting and pasting just isn't worth it, Hoffman contends. Many experts urge doctors to disable the feature.


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