Reduction in malpractice claims linked to medical informatics usage

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The results of a new study published in “The Archives of Internal Medicine” indicate that the use of medical informatics systems can reduce the number of malpractice claims filed against clinicians.

Approximately 189 physician practices in Massachusetts participated in the study. Prior to the introduction of medical informatics technology, 49 malpractice claims were filed against the participating clinicians. After electronic health records (EHRs) were implemented, the number of malpractice claims was reduced to two.

Researchers at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates in Boston studied the relationship between the number of claims filed and whether physicians accused of malpractice were using a medical informatics system. Using poisson regression models of statistical analysis, researchers discovered the use of clinical informatics technology correlated with a substantial reduction in the risk of a malpractice claim.

“While this study includes only a small number of post-EHR claims, it suggests that implementation of EHRs may reduce malpractice claims and, at the least, appears not to increase claims as providers adapt to using EHRs,” read the report. “The reduction in claims seen in this study among physicians who adopted EHRs lends support to the push for widespread implementation of health information technology.”

One important discovery outlined in the report was that the introduction of medical informatics systems had a substantial impact on the total number of closed insurance claims relating to malpractice, not just the number of cases in which patients received monetary reimbursement. This suggests a transitional shift toward greater accountability of care, improved quality of physician services and lower risk to patients.

Although the scope of the study was limited, the results could provide the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services with additional momentum in its goal of driving medical informatics adoption across the healthcare sector in the U.S.