A new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that physicians who use electronic health records (EHR) experience fewer malpractice claims than those who do not use EHRs. The article specifically states, “We found that the rate of malpractice claims when EHRs were used was about one-sixth the rate when EHRs were not used”.
The study was also limited to Massachusetts physicians who were affiliated with Harvard Medical School in Boston and who were covered by Controlled Risk Insurance Company/Risk Management Foundation.Although the numbers appear convincing, the article’s authors acknowledge that there could be other factors contributing to the smaller amount of malpractice claims. For example, physicians who were early adopters of EHR may have already had policies and procedures in place that lend themselves to lower malpractice risk.
Also, adopting EHRs could have been one of several concurrent interventions that physicians implemented, meaning it would only be a factor and not the sole cause. Clearly, more research needs to be done to determine if there is a real connection between EHR and malpractice rates. However, it is encouraging that the number of claims did not increase as physicians adapt to learning new systems. Recently AMA Executive Vice President and CEO James L. Madara, MD expressed concern over “usability issues” related to EHR that could compromise physicians’ ability to deliver quality care and enhance patient safety.
Perhaps the authors could widen the scope of their study and revisit the topic in 2014 when Stage 2 of the federal electronic health records incentive program goes into effect.