Study: Electronic Health Records Have Alarming Error Rates

Digitization of medical records has been shown to improve patient safety. However, a new study by The Doctors Company, a physician-owned medical malpractice insurer, shows that electronic health records used by 90 percent of hospitals and 80 percent of doctors’ offices, are at the root of many new medical malpractice lawsuits.medical malpractice lawyer

The firm reported that an analysis showed the number of claims involving electronic health record errors as a contributing factor has risen steadily over the last decade.

The potential liability risks to the medical malpractice insurer were first noted beginning in 2007. Between then and 2010, there were 2 total claims wherein these records were a contributing factor. By 2013, there were 28 such claims. There were a total of 97 such claims closed between January 2007 and June 2014. Between July 2014 and December 2016, there were 66 claims involving errors with electronic health records.

About half of those caused by system failures. These include things like:

  • Design and technology issues;
  • Lack of integration within hospital electronic records systems;
  • Inadequate alerts and alarms;
  • Insufficient area for proper documentation;
  • Lack of electronic routing features;
  • Inadequate security of medical records.

Those increased by 8 percent over the study period.

Meanwhile, about 60 percent of those claims involved user error factors, like copying and pasting progress notes, data entry mistakes and alert fatigue. Still, these errors did decline by about 6 percent.

One of the trends noted was that from 2014 to 2016, there was a decline in the number of electronic health record errors in hospitals and doctor’s offices, and an increase of those occurring in patient rooms. Still, doctors’ offices and hospitals continue to be where the bulk of these errors occur.

The most common error? Diagnosis mistakes. They accounted for about one-third of all mistakes related to electronic health records. Medication-related allegations were the second-most common, accounting for 23 percent of all claims involving electronic health records.

Researchers opined that the majority of problems with electronic health records would be avoidable if the federal government stepped in to establish clear standards for vendors of these systems. The systems should also be thoroughly beta tested in health care environments to ensure optimal usability. Doctors and other healthcare workers aren’t involved in the development of these systems, and researchers say feedback from healthcare workers to software development companies has been “largely ignored.” Study authors also recommended the government establish a government agency to uniformly and systematically collect data from these systems so they could be easily investigate mistakes with adverse health consequences and help prevent them.

The insurer stated that in most cases, issues with electronic health records are more a contributing factor than a primary cause in medical malpractice cases. Our Naples medical malpractice attorneys recognize with this information is that these systems must not only be carefully monitored, but users still need to double check, cross check and question when something doesn’t seem right. This is especially true knowing the potential for error.

Doctors may see hundreds of patients over the course of a month. Adequate record-keeping is essential to ensuring important red flags or issues aren’t overlooked.

Contact the Naples medical malpractice attorneys at David J. Halberg, P.A., Attorneys at Law, by calling toll-free at 1-877-425-2374. Serving West Palm Beach, Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Fort Myers/ Naples. There is no fee unless you win.

Additional Resources:

Electronic Health Record Closed Claims Study, October 2017, The Doctors Company

More Blog Entries:

Fla. 2nd DCA Awards Expert Witness Fees to Medical Malpractice Plaintiff, Sept. 19, 2017, Naples Medical Malpractice Lawyer Blog