EHR mess-ups put doctors at risk for malpractice lawsuits, HIMSS16 speaker says

EHR mess-ups put doctors at risk for malpractice lawsuits, HIMSS16 speaker says

While vendors need to fix some issues, liability expert Trish Lugtu says healthcare organizations are responsible, too.

While electronic health records have been shown to improve patient health, safety and care coordination in many ways, what is less documented is how EHRs can also cause harm, and even leave healthcare professionals open to malpractice suits.

Trish Lugtu, associate director of research at the Minneapolis-based medical liability insurance company MMIC, points to one case in which an anesthesiologist didn’t have critical information available in his views of the EHR that would have told him a patient wasn’t a candidate for the type of anesthesia used for a certain procedure.

The patient ended up being paralyzed from the waist down, she said.

This is just one example Lugtu will explore in her session, “When EHRs Cause Patient Harm: Lessons from Malpractice” at HIMSS16.

“I’ve found that there is a pretty even split between what I’ll call ‘unsafe technology’ and ‘unsafe use,’” she said of the contributing factors to EHR-related malpractice claims.

“Unsafe technology,” she added, “encompasses those issues that the provider generally can’t control in the moment or at the point-of-care, such as the way templates and workflow are configured, adequacy of fields to document, or how lists appear in dropdowns.”

Technical issues such as downed systems or broken interfaces can also problematically affect access to EHRs. But Lugtu warned that “we need to be careful not to fall into the trap of immediately blaming vendors.”

While vendors obviously need to be involved to fix some issues, Lugtu says the healthcare organization is responsible, too, for its level of engagement during implementation of a new system or module and the security safeguards put in place.

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