E-Health Records Reduce Some Risks, Create New Ones

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Clinical Information System Response Times

A Compuware survey of health care professionals from organizations large and small revealed the majority are not satisfied with clinical information system response times.

The goal of electronic medical records systems is to increase the efficiency of doctor's offices, hospitals and other providers and enable them to provide higher quality care. In theory, if all the technical kinks are worked out and practitioners can get used to the new way of doing things, it really should make a big difference. But that's a big "if," and getting there could take awhile.


Even though EMR systems should reduce risk because they will allow providers to have patient medication lists, allergies and medical histories at hand instead of requiring them to rely on patient memory, the availability of such a wealth of information also introduces new risks. Patient privacy issues are bound to arise, as we have already noted.


Moreover, as Sharona Hoffman and Andy Podgurski explained in their article, "E-Health Hazards: Provider Liability and Electronic Health Record Systems," the new technology may also give rise to a higher expectation from patients regarding care given. The writers say:

Physicians... who do not have the time or skill to assimilate the unprecedented amount of available data and to optimize their use of technology, may face medical malpractice claims that would have never emerged in the past. Clinicians who mishandle EHR systems and thereby cause injury to patients could also in rare cases face disciplinary action ...and even criminal prosecution...[H]ospitals may likewise face reaccreditation challenges and lawsuits based on vicarious liability and other negligence theories.


To address these new risks, Hoffman and Podgarski, Case Western Reserve University professors of law and computer science, respectively, argue that electronic medical record systems should be federally regulated so that they are "subject to ongoing oversight." They also argue that government representatives, those who create the EMR systems and those who use them should develop clinical practice guidelines for their use. Such guidance will not only help users as they learn the technology, it will also establish the standard of care for its use.