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Do electronic medical records reduce medical malpractice claims?

About one-third of doctor's offices across the country are using electronic health records. Some in New York City and beyond have feared that the switch from paper records to electronic records could increase the rate of errors made by physicians. However, a new study shows that electronic health records could reduce medical malpractice claims by 84 percent.

The study looked at 275 doctors. Twelve percent of those doctors had been sued. Of the medical malpractice claims filed, ninety-six percent were related to errors made before switching to electronic medical records. Only two claims were filed as a result of mistakes made after the physicians began using electronic records.

"Electronic health records in general tend to improve the quality of care by decreasing the number of mistakes, and to the extent to which mistakes drive malpractice claims, you should be seeing less claims," one physician pointed out.

Doctors using electronic medical records are able to see what medications a patient has been prescribed. They can also see notes from other physicians. Some systems even alert doctors when a drug they prescribe could interact with another medication the patient is taking.

Those who oppose electronic health records fear that a new system could make doctors more susceptible to making errors. For instance, some worry that notes and prescriptions could be documented in the wrong record.

Health care professionals must do all that they can to prevent patient harm. Part of that may mean adopting a new system to track patient's records. Although it may be uncomfortable for some at first, patient safety should be a top priority for all medical professionals.

Source: Reuters, "Electronic records tied to fewer malpractice claims," Genevra Pittman, June 26, 2012

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