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Electronic Health Records & Medical Malpractice Risk

March 25, 2015 by The Parrish Law Firm

Imagine that your loved one is admitted to the hospital with a severe pain in his/her leg and that he/she also has a pre-existing heart condition, which is being treated with Warfarin, a blood thinner. Warfarin is initially listed on your loved one’s chart and being accounted for in the hospital’s plan of care. However, an emergency then occurs and your loved one suffers a stroke and dies.

At the hospital, the staff re-examines your loved one’s medical chart and they find that the pre-existing heart condition is no longer listed in the medical history and there is no mention of Warfarin. The hospital investigates further and finds a glitch in the hospital’s electronic health record (EHR) system, which deleted this vital medical information. In such a case, your loved one’s death was caused by computer malpractice.

Computer malpractice can happen as a result of human error, technology glitches, and system design defects. It can absolutely threaten the quality of patient care and safety and it can and has, jeopardized the safety of patients’ health data.

Hospitals and doctors are adopting EHRs quickly because of pressure from our government. As part of the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid provide incentives to eligible professionals who implement EHRs, and in turn, they penalize those who do not. Professionals who do not demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHR technology, will have their Medicare reimbursement cut by 1 percent each year. This type of pressure has led many Medical Professionals to rush into the adoption of new EHR systems, resulting in a higher probability for dangerous errors to occur. Patients are most at risk for this type of malpractice during the installation and implementation of a new system or during the upgrade of an existing system.

If your health care provider has purchased a system with design flaws or has provided inadequate training for its users, then it may lead to multiple compromising failures, including the erasing of important medical history, corruption and loss of important data, inaccurate or in inadequate reporting of patient information, and missing information during the transmission of patient data to other providers.

Determining Fault

Determining fault for electronic malpractice is very complicated. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) mandates that the health care provider is responsible for maintaining a patient’s medical records. Contracts between the IT companies and the health care providers typically contain provisions that place all responsibility on the health care provider. It is important to look at all documents between the vendor and the health care provider, including all correspondence between the vendor and healthcare provider that may state that the system had flaws, problems and glitches. A look at the history of repair or corrective actions should be requested and obtained. If the vendor has been negligent by supplying a defective device or software, they too will be exposed to liability.

The Parrish Law Firm medical malpractice attorney works with Northern Virginia citizens who have suffered from this kind of computer error and are looking for fair compensation for their injuries. Contact us today for a free case consultation, or call us at 703-906-4229.

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A representative of the Parrish Law Firm, PLLC researched and wrote this article with Mr. Parrish’s consent. If you have any questions regarding the legal implications of what you have just read, please send us your question by clicking here so we can have our attorney review it.

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