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Electronic-related med mal claims increasing: The Doctors

By Judy GreenWald

Electronic-related med mal claims increasing: The Doctors
(Photo by Getty Images)

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The number of medical malpractice claims stemming at least in part from electronic health records is increasing and may become a more frequent risk factor, says a report by a medical malpractice insurer.

An analysis of 216 claims closed from 2010 to 2018 indicates the pace of these claims grew from a low of seven in 2010 to an average of 22.5 cases per year in 2017 and 2018, according to the study by Napa, California-based The Doctors Co. 

Electronic health records “are typically contributing factors rather than the primary cause of claims, and the frequency with an EHR factor continues to be low (1.1 percent of all claims closed since 2010),” says the study by Darrell Ranum, vice president of patient safety and risk management at the insurer.

“Still, as EHRs approach near-universal adoption, they may become a more prevalent source of risk.”

The report says the EHR-related claims closed from 2010 to 2018 were caused by either system technology and design issues, such as electronic systems or technology failure, or by user-related issues.

One example presented in the study was of an elderly female patient with sinus complaints, for whom the physician intended to order Flonase nasal spray. The patient later went to the emergency room for dizziness.

 It was discovered the original ordering physician had entered “FLO” in the medication screen, and the EHR automatically selected Flomax, a medication for enlarged prostate, one side effect of which is hypotension.

Recommendations to avoid EHR-related malpractice claims in the report are to avoid copying and pasting except when describing the patient’s past medical history; contact the information technology department if the auto-population feature causes erroneous data to be recorded; review entries after making a choice from a drop-down menu; review all available data and information before treating a patient; and position the computer so the patient can view the screen.

Childbirth-related medical professional liability claims have traditionally been a major problem for health care institutions and physicians, but better risk management is helping to reduce their impact, experts say.


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