Healthcare practitioners know better than most that patient records can be the linchpin in a malpractice case. But here’s a new wrinkle: electronic health records (EHRs) can be pretty confusing – a fact which may bolster the plaintiff’s argument in a malpractice lawsuit.
The Sometimes Confusing World of EHRs
According to healthcare IT website Healthcare IT News, some plaintiff lawyers are starting to use electronic health records as an opportunity for litigation because…
- Electronic medical data populates easy-to-read templates on a screen.
- When printed, the medical data is complex, duplicated, and hard to follow.
- Malpractice plaintiffs may challenge the care that was given if the printed record is confusing.
The article quotes attorney Mary Re Knack, who explains that the way EHR data is printed can be confusing to read simply because of how the software works. She claims that some lawyers cite these medical records as a contributing factor in malpractice claims. As a result, healthcare providers are forced to defend how their medical records work, even when the case began as an argument about the care provided.
Allied health professionals obviously want Malpractice Insurance to help them pay for legal costs if they wind up in court. But what can they do to help ensure their electronic health records don't land them in trouble in the first place?
Be Sure to Work with Certified Health IT Vendors
Gerald “Jud” DeLoss (@gdeloss), a member of law firm
Clark Hill PLC, says, “Generally speaking, I think EHR vendors are taking steps to address the issue of confusing production of medical records.”
DeLoss explains that under federal meaningful use incentive programs for electronic health records, healthcare providers are encouraged to make EHRs easily available to patients. In other words, patients should be able to view, download, and transmit the information. “In order to become certified health IT, EHR vendors must satisfy these requirements,” DeLoss notes.
And that also means lawyers should be able to digitally access the records if needed. DeLoss says, “This should decrease the instances of printing out a hard copy of the EHR and the accompanying instances of confusion or misunderstanding of the printed record.”
With time and more innovative software, the problem of confusing records will likely become less frequent, or at least a less compelling argument for malpractice lawyers. In the meantime, healthcare practitioners should work with their IT vendors to ensure medical records are…
- Patient accessible.
- HIPAA compliant.
A Note about EHRs, Cyber Liability, and HIPAA Fines
Keep in mind that malpractice cases aren’t the only risks associated with EHRs. Data breaches are a big concern for healthcare practitioners, too.
Your practice may be on the hook for HIPAA fines if its electronic medical records are exposed. (Check out our HIPAA compliance resources for pointers on preventing breaches.)
Cyber Liability Insurance can help protect an allied health professional from the financial fallout of a breach. The policy may pay for patient notification, credit monitoring, and lawsuit costs. It may even help cover the cost of a HIPAA fine in certain situations.
With a careful approach to EHRs and the appropriate allied healthcare business insurance, practitioners can provide patients with the best care available while still managing their own risks. To learn more, check out "Even Small Healthcare Practices Must Pay HIPAA Fines for Cyber Security Violations."