Research aims to address electronic health record malpractice risks

June 13, 2012

A new study will examine how your use of electronic health records may result in serious mistakes and will create new tools that may help protect you against claims of malpractice.

The American Health Lawyers Association (AHLA) plans to conduct a year-long research project to determine the types of mistakes that may occur when electronic health record (EHR) systems are implemented and used. It also will produce tools you can use, such as checklists, to help prevent EHR-related errors that could result in claims of malpractice.

Your use of EHRs may increase your malpractice risk in many different ways, the group says. For example, you may record test and imaging results incorrectly, you may make an error when documenting clinical findings, software glitches may prevent you from quickly delivering care, or you may have received inadequate training that could lead to mistakes.

The project’s co-principal investigators, Elisabeth Belmont, JD, corporate counsel for MaineHealth, and Dean F. Sittig, PhD, a professor in the School of Biomedical Informatics at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at Houston and a member of the UT-Memorial Hermann Center for Healthcare Quality & Safety, will lead research aimed at developing checklists you can use to prevent EHR-related errors. The research is being funded with $45,000 from the American Society of Healthcare Risk Management.

“We’re all overwhelmed with the amount of material that we have to read and understand,” Belmont tells Medical Economics exclusively. “Whenever possible, I will come up with some type of helpful tool-a checklist, a decision tree-to make information easier for people to assimilate.”

In addition to the checklists, the research will result in best-practice guidelines designed to help prevent physicians from making errors that may compromise patient safety.

Also, a list of dashboard indicators for EHR-related medical errors will be created for those responsible for ensuring quality. “Most boards are now focused on quality,” Belmont says. “But in my preliminary research, I really couldn't find any major medical centers implementing quality metrics that specifically related to EHRs.”

The AHLA plans to use the data it collects from this research to protect patients from medical errors and physicians from malpractice claims.

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