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Harvard research suggests EMRs reduce risk
Recent research from Harvard University suggests that the adoption of electronic medical records (EMRs) could have a positive effect on reducing malpractice liability, says one of the lead authors, David Westfall Bates, MD, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Cambridge, MA, and professor of health policy and management at the Harvard School of Public Health.
"When providers use electronic records in the outpatient setting, the likelihood of a paid malpractice settlement was about two-thirds as high," Bates says. "It did seem that those who used electronic records more had an even bigger effect. Among people who used electronic records a lot, they were about half as likely to pay a malpractice settlement."
Bates says the data weren't sufficiently detailed to pinpoint exactly why EMRs appeared to reduce malpractice payouts, but he theorizes that one reason is the clarity in the documentation. With computerized records, the notes often are more complete and clear than a handwritten record, he notes.
"It also is possible to display guidelines and reminders, with the option to note that you are ignoring the guideline in this case and why," Bates says. "That can make it easier to prove that you were following the standard of care and why you made some decisions."
Bates calls the research results encouraging - but not definitive - because the sample size was not sufficiently large for concrete conclusions.
"I think it is likely that insurance carriers will start offering reductions for adoption of electronic records, and risk managers have a key role-play in educating providers about the importance of selecting the right system and implementing it effectively," he says.
For more information on the Harvard research, contact:
David Westfall Bates, MD, Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, MA. Telephone: (617) 732-7063. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.