Furr & Henshaw
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Electronic health records: the new medical malpractice frontier?

Part of the health care reforms that began in 2010 under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is the mandatory transition of health care record keeping from paper-based to electronic format. While the U.S. Department of health and Human Services claims that this conversion will reduce health care related administrative burdens and costs, as more health care providers and health insurers implement the change we may be seeing the beginning of a new trend in medical malpractice actions as a result: lawsuits alleging harm from errors in electronic records.

The types of mistakes that are being alleged in lawsuits connected to electronic records have both technological and human sources. Sometimes, these mistakes can be as simple as typos or software users having difficulty with drop-down menu lists or auto-completion of form fields. Other problems have more complex sources, such as voice recognition software that does not always work properly, or a failure to maintain current forms for record entries.

Regardless of their origin, any of these errors that proximately causes harm to a patient, such as a misinterpreted medication prescription or dosage amount, can lead to a malpractice claim.

Historically, mistakes involving electronic records have been rare. But with the accelerated pace of physicians, hospitals and health insurers moving into the digital realm when it comes to patient record entries and record keeping, the incidence of lawsuits that allege errors with electronic health records has doubled from 2013 to 2014, and may continue to increase as compliance with the HHS electronic record requirement increases.

As this requirement is national in scope, it is possible that patients in South Carolina may encounter mistakes with electronic records and systems that may be causally connected with compensable harm. It will be incumbent on personal injury attorneys to stay abreast of this new development in medical malpractice law in this state to ensure the best possible service to their clients.

Source: iHealthbeat, "EHRs Increasingly Included in Medical Malpractice Lawsuits," May 5, 2015

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