Growing Cause for Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

The portion of medical malpractice lawsuits filed over problems with electronic health records is relatively small – but is rising as healthcare providers increasingly rely on the technology.

Electronic health records allow authorized healthcare providers instant and real-time access to a patient’s medical records. These digital patient charts were introduced in an effort to boost medical care efficiency and outcomes.

But one result not trumpeted by EHR makers and proponents that has become a reality: medical errors that harm patients.

The Doctors Company provides medical malpractice insurance coverage to physicians. The organization has looked into the effects of EHRs and medical care, releasing a new report in August that documents medical malpractice lawsuits relating to EHR mistakes (“Electronic Health Records Continue to Lead to Medical Malpractice Suits”).

Mistakes using Electronic Health Records on the Rise

According to the research, medical malpractice claims involving EHRs represented 0.35% of all medical malpractice lawsuits in 2010.  But by 2018, that percentage hit 1.39% of all medical error claims.  Still small compared to the most common causes of medical error – medication mistakes, misdiagnoses, and others – but the impact of mistakes using EHRs and patient harm shows a definite upward trend.

And the results can be catastrophic.  According to the report, 25% of all medical malpractice claims involving EHR errors resulted in the death of the patient.

Why the rise on medical malpractice lawsuits involving electronic health records? It could be that more doctors are using them.  Some estimates place EHR use by doctors at 90% today, compared to just 15% in 2009.

Faulty EHR Design, User Error Lead to Medical Malpractice Claims

The study, however, found that paid medical malpractice claims over EHR mistakes resulted from design issues as well as user error.

In terms of faulty EHR design, leading causes for medical malpractice lawsuits uncovered were:

·         System/technology failure

·         Failure of the EHR to issue an alert or alarm

·         Failure to route data

·         Incompatible EHR systems

Physicians’ errors using EHRs that led to medical malpractice lawsuits included:

·         Entering incorrect information

·         Copying and pasting mistakes

·         Lack of proper training

·         Fatigue leading to physicians missing or bypassing alarms

The report also identified the type of healthcare providers most likely to face medical malpractice lawsuits over EHR errors.  The practice areas were wide ranging, led by family medicine physicians.  Other leading top medical specialties sued over EHR mistakes:

·         Internal medicine

·         Cardiology

·         Radiology

·         Obstetrics

·         Nursing

·         Hospital medicine

A diagnostic mistake was the leading type of error relating to EHR use, the report found, accounting for 31% of all lawsuits.  Other serious medical errors linked to EHR mistakes involved surgical patient care or surgical performance, administering the wrong medication, and the improper management of a medical treatment plan.

When a medical error occurs that leads to serious patient harm, multiple mistakes may have been made.  Problems with electronic health records may be overlooked or not brought to light by doctors and hospitals, even though they are increasing.

If you had a family member die while receiving medical care and you believe a mistake was made, contact an attorney experienced in conducting medical malpractice investigations.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

Authored by Gray, Ritter & Graham, P.C., posted in Blog October 22, 2019