EMR malpractice claims increase over past decade

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As the number of physician’s offices and hospitals implementing electronic medical records (EMRs) has increased so has the number of EMR-related medical malpractice claims, according to a report conducted by the Doctors Company, a large medical malpractice insurer.

In the study, researchers compared claims from the past 10 years and outlined new risks correlating to the increase. Currently, 80 percent of physicians’ offices and 90 percent of hospitals have implemented EMRs. With the growth in utilization comes a higher chance of medical errors. In this study, researchers included 66 EMR-related claims from July 2014 to December 2016 and January 2007 to June 2014 to evaluate closed claims over the last 10 years.

Over the course of 10 years, the number of claims increased from two from 2007 to 2010 to 66 from July 2014 to December 2016. In the time frame from July 2014 to December 2016, 50 percent of the 66 EMR-related claims were the result of system factors including failure of drug or clinical decision support alerts. Additionally, 58 percent of claims were caused by user errors including copy and pasting progress notes.

In the period of mid-2014 to 2016, EMR-related claim events mainly occurred in hospital clinics/doctor’s offices, followed by an increasing number occurring in patient rooms. The most common case of these claim events was diagnosis-related allegations occurring in 32 percent of cases, an increase from 27 percent in their previous study from 2007 to June 2014.

“We’ll have to do three main things to make the EHR the vehicle that we want it to be. First is promoting for more use of user-centered design,” said Robert M. Wachter, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. “The second is dealing with too many alerts—alert fatigue is overwhelming and dangerous, and we simply have to figure out how to prevent it. And the third is interoperability, to ensure that patient medical records can be shared easily between doctors, hospitals, and other healthcare providers at any time.”