Will Electronic Medical Records Reduce Malpractice Risks?

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In recent years, the federal government has pushed clinics and hospitals to adopt electronic medical records systems. Proponents argued that the systems would make medical practices more efficient and reduce the risk of doctor errors. Others, however, weren’t so sure. They worried that new electronic systems could lead to a whole slew of inadvertent mistakes.

Thankfully, these fears are not coming true. In fact, a recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that doctors who use electronic medical records are actually 84 percent less likely to be sued for medical malpractice than doctors who use traditional paper records.

Electronic records systems can help speed diagnoses and reduce confusion, since they allow doctors to easily share patient information. More sophisticated systems can even analyze a patient’s medical history to determine whether a particular drug could cause a negative reaction.

Still, electronic medical records systems are not without their risks. Many medical providers see an uptick in errors shortly after the systems are introduced. This can be largely attributed to user error, especially from older doctors who are less experienced with computerized systems.

The jury is still out on what role electronic medical records will play in future medical malpractice lawsuits. The fact that records are more accessible may mean that lawyers and plaintiffs will have better evidence to use at trial.

Even though electronic medical records can reduce the risk of error, nothing can completely eliminate the chance that a doctor will make a negligent mistake. Patients who are harmed by a negligent medical professional should talk to an attorney who can help them understand their rights.

Source: Reuters, “Electronic records tied to fewer malpractice claims,” Genevra Pittman, June 27, 2012.