8 Malpractice Dangers in Your EHR

Neil Chesanow


August 26, 2014

In This Article

Turning Patients Into Litigants

Many doctors complain that reviewing and entering information into the EHR means that patients don't get much eye contact during their visits. This depersonalization can have legal consequences.

"Physicians who have fewer minutes to speak with and examine patients may provide lower-quality care," Sharona Hoffman writes.[1] "In addition, patients may resent the doctor's focus on the computer and apparent inattention to them and be more apt to sue if they are dissatisfied with their health outcomes."

"This concern is not theoretical," she adds.[1] "Multiple studies have shown that patients most often decide to sue when they are displeased with the quality of the physician/patient relationship and feel they cannot communicate well with their doctors."

Similarly, communicating with some patients by secure email -- a core objective of meaningful use stage 2 requirements -- can backfire. Even though patients tell surveyors that they like doctors who do secure email,[6] if you don't respond in a timely fashion -- particularly if it's an emergency -- or if the tone of your email is curt and unfriendly, or too friendly and informal, it can leave patients miffed.

"There are concerns with every single EHR feature, with every single capacity, and you need to think through them all and implement responsible stewardship," Hoffman advises. "So if you're going to communicate with patients by email, don't communicate in the same way you would with your best friend, with incomplete sentences and not a lot of thought put into it. Everything requires careful thought."


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