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Do electronic medical records increase medical malpractice suits?

Various federal regulations require health care providers to keep electronic medical records, or EMRs. Lawmakers may have hoped that EMRs would improve visibility and accountability in patient care and the health care profession. For example, patients can access EMRs to better understand their condition, and other members of a patient’s health care team can consult EMRs for an instant status update on a patient’s progress and treatments. 

Yet has the legislative hope for EMRs been realized? For the objective of improved patient treatment and safety to become a reality, a doctor must update an EMR in conjunction with a patient’s treatment. Yet workflows may be different in various hospitals and treatment facilities. 

Under current rules, physicians must perform their own data entry when updating EMRs. But does that mean in real-time? If a doctor updates a patient’s EMR at the end of his or her day, will the record be as complete? What happens if a doctor keeps handwritten notes that are transcribed hours or even days later? What if doctors make shorthand entries in an EMR that don’t fully describe a patient’s status? What if the data entry system has its own technical limitations? What if EMR obligations force a doctor to cut short his or her actual face time with patients?

A recent article questions whether these and/or other scenarios indicate there are inherent issues with EMRs. Yet such records are increasingly being used in medical negligence cases. Do they accurately reflect the treatment that a patient received at the hands of his or her doctor? Our law firm focuses on medical malpractice litigation and understands how to compile evidence from various sources, including EMRs and expert testimony, to present a compelling case of medical negligence to the jury.

Source: Computer World, “Lawyers smell blood in electronic medical records,” Lucas Mearian, April 13, 2015

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