Electronic Health Records Could Help Lower Malpractice Claims

A research letter published Monday by Harvard scientists in the Archives of Internal Medicine suggests that doctors who adopt the use of electronic health records have a lower rate of malpractice claims.

The researchers examined responses from 275 physicians in Massachusetts who responded to surveys in 2005 and 2007, and examined the physicians’ use of electronic health records (EHRs) and the number of suits filed against them.  According to the analysis, malpractice claims for physicians using electronic health records were a sixth of those for doctors not using EHRs.

“This study adds to the literature suggesting that EHRs have the potential to improve patient safety and supports the conclusions of our prior work, which showed a lower risk of paid claims among physicians using EHRs,”  report the researchers. They also note that lower malpractice claims can help to curb health care costs.

The researchers acknowledged the results could relate to unmeasured factors such as doctors who “were early adopters of EHRs may exhibit practice patterns that make them less likely to have malpractice claims.”

The 2009 federal stimulus package provided financial incentives for doctors who start using EHRs before 2015.  Many providers have been struggling to make the change, however, and there have been concerns over privacy.