Rate of EHR adoption could result in increased lawsuits against physicians, says study

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The speed and widespread adoption of clinical informatics systems and electronic health records (EHRs) could result in increasing numbers of lawsuits against physicians, according to a report by healthcare IT research firm, the AC Group.

The study, titled Do EHRs Increase Liability?, claims that as the rate of medical informatics adoption has increased, so too have the number of malpractice lawsuits leveled against physicians. This has resulted in an increase in premiums of Medical Liability Carriers for some healthcare providers currently utilizing a clinical informatics network.

Reasons identified in the report for potential increases in healthcare provider liability include the number of clinical informatics products currently available, and varying standards of compliance with Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) and Certification Commission for Health Information Technology regulations.

The co-authors of the study, Mark Anderson, chief executive officer of the AC Group, and Dr. Larry Ozeran, a clinical informatics specialist, told Information Week that of 65 ambulatory EHRs that they reviewed as part of the study, 90 percent did not offer adequate training on legal issues raised by medical informatics use. They also discovered that 95 percent of cases they reviewed raised specific legal issues in terms of their risk of exposure to liability lawsuits.

“As is often the case, technology is advancing more rapidly than our ability to identify and address the medico-legal issues,” reads the report, as quoted by the news source. “The result of this uneven progression is that physicians and other stakeholders may be unknowingly exposed to medical liability risk.”

One of the main issues identified by the report is the lack of individualized alerts in medical informatics systems to monitor specific patient health concerns. In one example, the study outlines a scenario where a female patient was not provided with regular mammograms despite a family history of breast cancer, because adequate personalized alerts were not established in the EHR.