Can EHRs reduce medical liability risk?

Practices are faced with ever increasing premiums for medical liability. While this cost cannot be directly controlled, it can be influenced by certain factors like the implementation of EHR systems in the clinic. Even though there isn’t enough proof that EHRs can reduce the risk of doctors, many liability carriers offer a discount on premiums to those using them (Study published in Archives of Internal Medicine, Nov 2008).

Below are a few major risk management benefits of EHRs that can help medical practices reduce their liability premiums:


1. Improved analysis of patient information

EHRs offer better aggregation and trend analysis tools which can be used to consider all aspects of a patient’s condition prior to diagnosis, decisions regarding hospitalization or ordering additional tests. They make it easy to look up patient history, dates of tests and results, and prior medication all in one place which can lead to better diagnoses and treatments.


2. Reminders and alerts

Many EHRs employ alerts regarding the results of tests, procedures and consultations. These notifications facilitate quick analysis and diagnosis to enhance positive health outcomes. Physicians can also set reminders for follow-up procedures, screening tests for life-threatening illnesses based on patient history and monitor chronic ailments to prevent future complications.


3. Electronic documentation

EHRs can store data regarding diagnoses, treatment plans, informed consent of patient, expected outcome of tests etc along with date and timestamps. This document trail can be extremely useful when defending any liability claim. Medical professionals can easily show adherence to best practices through such records. Many systems allow doctors to explain and justify the reasons for alteration of medical records through notes. Since these are recorded with the date and time of alteration, it looks much less like a ‘cover up’ than when changes are made to a paper record.


4. Prevention of adverse events

Sophisticated EHR systems also include built in safeguards against accidentally prescribing drugs or lab tests, which can cause adverse effects on the patient based on current treatment and medical history. They can prevent smaller issues from escalating into liability claims later.


5. Educated patients

Patient portals, often included in EHRs, play an important role in keeping them informed about their diagnosis, treatments and medications. Patients who make use of such portals are better able to take decisions about their health, improving the probability of positive outcomes. It also reduces miscommunication between doctors and patients regarding preventive care and precautions.

It is clear that EHRs are yet another tool in the arsenal of medical professionals in their quest to offer better care to patients and at the same time, manage their own malpractice exposure.




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