Electronic health records (EHRs) seem like a good idea at first glance. They can provide more accurate health records, reduce errors based on handwriting, and provide all treating physicians with access to the same patient data.
However, a recent report suggests that the rush to move to EHRs may result in inadequate EHR software, according to a white paper published by the AC Group, a Texas-based health information technology research and consulting firm. This could actually expose physicians to a greater risk of malpractice lawsuits.
The paper calls on federal officials to slow the adoption of a federal incentive program that aims to get hospitals and medical practices to use EHRs. The artificially short deadlines for implementing the EHRs could cause vendors to cut corners and rush training and testing, warn the paper’s authors.
“As is often the case, technology is advancing more rapidly than our ability to identify and address the medico-legal issues,” they wrote. “The result of this uneven progression is that physicians and other stakeholders may be unknowingly exposed to medical liability risk.”
The authors looked at the functionality of 42 ambulatory EHRs and found that almost 90% could not provide drug-lab alerts, more than 80% did not interaction checking during the prescription refill process, and 60% failed to automatically update clinical decision support to reflect changes in recommended treatments. Most EHRs also do not into account social or family medical history in creating alerts, and do not check drug orders against laboratory results.
Other critics of EHRs warn that it creates malpractice risk by creating an overwhelming volume of information that a doctor may be unable to read completely. Physicians may then be accused of not providing a thorough patient assessment.
The white paper authors recommend that EHR vendors consider external reviews of their products for potential medical malpractice concerns.