New Malpractice Risks in Your EHR

Ronald B. Sterling, MBA, CPA

Disclosures

January 22, 2019

In This Article

New Malpractice Risks and Electronic Health Records

Malpractice liability risks for physicians, practices, and healthcare organizations (HCOs) continually change, owing to a variety of healthcare and technology issues. From changes in treatment and care strategies to the ability of your electronic health record (EHR) to support new patient service tactics and care responsibilities, you need to be aware of these risks. You also need to manage your EHR use to address potential malpractice-related risks.

On the plus side, as more patient care tools are built into EHRs and as more active patient care interventions become part of your patient treatment routine, EHRs may help you manage patients and your clinical activities.

However, built-in EHR features that display warnings and advisories can produce a cacophony of visual and auditory noise that can be distracting. Physicians need to be able to control and manage them. EHR-generated advisories that are misleading or inappropriate could disrupt patient service, confuse physicians, and undermine confidence in the EHR.

If a malpractice case arises, the plaintiff could see evidence that's residing within your EHR, and use it against you. For example, EHR drug interaction warnings as well as notifications of incoming secure messages are tracked and recorded by the EHR. Such information may be used for internal performance tracking, managing clinical operations, or to review how your practice or HCO responded to a patient issue, related to a malpractice claim.

Indeed, many plaintiffs home in on ineffective EHR use and incomplete information as a weapon to undermine the entire EHR-based patient record as well as the quality of care provided to the patient.

Still, practices or HCOs that use EHRs to proactively manage patient issues and record clinical information on a timely basis have a valuable tool to provide cost-effective patient services and prevent lapses that could lead to a claim.

The key issue facing HCOs is how to make use of the EHR's capabilities to enhance relationships with patients, encourage adherence to care recommendations, and address the demands of value-based medicine. The goal is to avoid lapses in clinical care and operations that could lead to a claim of medical professional liability and to yield patient records that withstand the scrutiny of a discovery process.

To appreciate the importance of maintaining EHR records, you need to understand what your EHR is recording throughout your workday.

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