Medical Malpractice Liability in the Age of Electronic Health Records

The malpractice liability implications of the increased use of electronic health records (EHRs) will vary over the course of EHR adoption into medical practice, ending in a shift in the legal standards of care.

According to a review of existing literature, there will be a greater risk of malpractice liability when EHRs are first adopted because of implementation snags. Liability risk may decrease over time because EHRs can prevent medical errors. However, they also provide opportunities for mistakes with medication and diagnosing patients remotely, as well as providing increased evidence for malpractice claims. In the long term, EHRs could potentially change legal standards of care by leaving less room for flexibility in physician decision-making. It is likely that adoption of EHRs will eventually become the standard of care and failure to employ EHRs will be considered an unacceptable deviation.

The authors recommend that physicians and providers manage the risks associated with EHRs by avoiding contracts that immunize EHR developers, using systems that minimize the risk of user error, improving EHR training and adapting medical practice conditions to optimize EHR use.