AMED News published a story this week that takes yet another look at the potential for increased medical malpractice as a result of the switch from paper to electronic medical records. Our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers have been following this issue closely, because it is important to spread information about changes that might lead to medical problems before they occur so that patients can be on the lookout. When it comes to electronic medical records, especially during the transition periods, it is important for patients to remain active in the care that they receive to ensure that potential problems are caught.
The need to be aware of electronic records issues is rising, because the federal stimulus package places incentives on care providers to switch away from paper records. In order to spur a stronger health information technology infrastructure, these professionals can receive anywhere from $44,000 to $64,000 by switching over to electronic records.
While some bodies are predictably claiming that lawsuits will skyrocket and cause problems as a result of the switch (insurance companies), most reasonable observers understand that, with anything, the switch will be fine so long as managed reasonably. For example, one expert explained, “it’s all about the system that’s in place and the integrity of that system. You can only do what the system allows you to do. If you have a good system in place, then the doctors are protected-even from themselves.”
When proper care is used when interacting with the records, mix-ups and other problems can be avoided. For example, experts suggest that “cutting and pasting” within the records be minimized, because there is an increased risk of copying inaccurate information. Similarly, care must be used when switching between patient records. Doctors must also not become overly dependent on electronic diagnosis aids, because they often are not as comprehensive as necessary. Hands-on diagnosis remains paramount. Electronic should written just as thoroughly as paper records. For safety purposes, all records need to be encrypted and employees should be discouraged from taking portable devices out of the office which contain the data.
One issue that our Illinois medical malpractice lawyers understand is novel with electronic records is that risk of a data breaches. Medical records are private matters, and so medical professionals have a duty to act reasonably to keep that information safe from third-parties. This is still a very new area of the law, and most courts have yet to decide questions about doctor liability in medical breach cases. Contrary to typical medical malpractice suits involving physical harm to patients, in these cases, the plaintiffs are seeking recovery for potential economic losses.
The one case that has already gone to court on this issue was decided in the healthcare providers’ favor. In that case, a healthcare employee had a briefcase stolen from the car which contained the information. However, there was no indication in that case that the thief did or even planned to use the information inside. There was mixed evidence about what damage was caused to plaintiffs as a result of the theft.
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