When physicians use electronic health records, they're less likely to face malpractice claims, according to a new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Using electronic health records could help
doctors face fewer malpractice suits, a study by Harvard Medical School
In their study, called "The Relationship
Between Electronic Health Records and Malpractice Claims," the Harvard
researchers found that 84 percent of respondents were less likely to face
malpractice claims after implementing EHR platforms.
of Internal Medicine
, part of The
Journal of the American Medical Association
(JAMA) network, published the
findings on its Website June 25.
Between 2005 and 2007, researchers interviewed
275 doctors in the surgical and medical specialties. Of the claims the doctors
received during this period, 49 out of 51 involved events that happened before
they adopted EHRs.
Participating doctors were members of Harvard
Medical School and covered by a malpractice insurer, Controlled Risk Insurance
Company/Risk Management Foundation (CRICO/RMF
"The high quality and availability of
proper documentation in EHRs may increase the likelihood of successful defense
against malpractice claims," the report stated.
The authors of the study include Dr. Steven
Simon, associate professor with Harvard Medical School and chief of general
internal medicine at the VA Boston Healthcare System, as well as Dr. Mariah
Quinn of the department of internal medicine at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates
a nonprofit medical group practice serving eastern Massachusetts.
"At the very least, this study should
provide doctors and medical groups with further assurance that EHR adoption is
very unlikely to increase their odds of a malpractice claim," Simon told eWEEK
in an email.
To arrive at the study's results, Harvard
researchers used a statistical method called Poisson regression to find a
linear correlation between its 2005 and 2007 results.
"Because physicians in the sample were
insured for different durations and used EHRs for variable amounts of time, the
number of insured years was calculated for each physician before and after EHR
adoption," the report stated.
"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," the report stated.
When doctors used EHRs, malpractice claims
were about one-sixth the rate of those reported when EHRs were not used,
according to the study.
Researchers conducted two surveys between
2005 and 2007. Of 275 doctors interviewed, 189 participated in both 2005 and
2007, and reported that 27, or 14.3 percent, were involved in at least one
In addition to reducing medical claims,
health IT may improve communication among providers, speed up access to patient
data, make the prescribing of medication safer and increase compliance with
clinical guidelines, according to the report.
On one hand, EHRs also contributed to a
reduction in medical errors, according to the report, yet some physicians
surveyed feared negative effects from implementing EHRs.
"While EHRs enhance documentation, make
visits more efficient,
medication errors, and allow providers to track and manage their entire patient
population, some physicians harbor reservations about potential unintended
consequences of EHRs, including a possible increased risk of adverse
events," the report stated.
A March 2011 survey by CDW Healthcare showed
on the patient side, as well. Of 1,000 Americans interviewed by CDW
between Jan. 24 and Jan. 31 of last year, 49 percent believed that EHRs would
affect their privacy negatively.