Forensic Update

Reflections on information management within the legal and regulatory arena

Move to e-Records could increase claims and costs for Healthcare…

Posted by Johnny Lee on January 10, 2011

Electronic medical records have received a great deal of scrutiny in recent months, especially in light of sweeping changes from Washington coupled with mandates at the state level to automate healthcare delivery.  While the premise (and promise) of automation tends to focus on increased efficiencies and cost savings, the irony is that the implementation of electronic medical records (“EMR”) might actually cost providers (i.e., hospitals and medical practices) a lot more in litigation costs and liability insuranceat least in the short term.

According to a new report from Hartford-based Conning Research, underwriters are concerned that there will be a non-trivial increase in medical errors when EMRs are implemented.  This, in turn, will drive up both the number of claims and the related cost of defending same.

The report, entitled Medical Professional Liability in a Changing Health Care Environment, indicates that over 90% of providers have yet to implement EMRs (at least to the extent that would satisfy the federal “meaningful use” standards).   This statistic will change drastically in the coming years, given that ObamaCare intends to add over 30 million individuals to the “new insureds” ranks by 2014.  Providers will rush to adopt this new technology not because of the on-boarding of new insureds so much as the significant federal financial incentives that accrue to those adopting EMRs.

While the report indicates that errors are likely to trend downward over time, it is quite likely that claims could increase substantially as patients find fewer barriers to accessing their own health information and the treatments they receive.  This, combined with the fact that EMRs tend to have more information than their paper-based counterparts, will create a virtual bonanza for plaintiffs’ counsel that specialize in medical malpractice claims, as it will be that much easier to identify when treatments provided depart from recommended treatment protocols.

The ease of access to these eDiscovery “haystacks” (as well as the increased number of potential needles within them) might prove to be an ominous litigation trend facing providers for many years to come.  At a bare minimum, it certainly explains why insurers are twitchy with regard to the adoption of this technology.

 

See also: Electronic Records Don’t Improve Outpatient Care, Stanford Study Indicates

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