Medical Negligence Suits Could Increase Due To Federal Mandate

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New Jersey readers may be interested to hear of a relatively recent change to federal law. The change in question directs hospitals to implement electronic health record (EHR) systems by 2012. These systems are meant to collect and monitor patient data, but many worry that the fast-arriving deadline may increase the likelihood of medical negligence suits, in the case that hospitals move to implement the systems before they are ready.

The 2012 EHR system mandate is a result of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. As part of that act, federal officials have instructed hospitals to have the systems ready by next year. But as anyone who has dealt with a computer knows, new software tends to have a lot of glitches.

Those glitches could then jeopardize patient safety. In fact, a recent study of 65 EHRs found that 95 percent of them demonstrated issues specifically related to legal liability. If a computer glitch ends up causing a patient harm, then that could open up the possibility of a medical malpractice suit against the physician or hospital.

Nonetheless, EHRs could also prove immensely beneficial to patients. A recent news report stated that EHRs produce information showing not just all the data entered by a physician, but also when the data was entered and who entered it. Indeed, such transparency could help patients and doctors alike by leaving a paper trail for each step of the medical evaluation process.

With luck, concerns about computer glitches will prove unfounded, and the increased transparency will prove helpful as hospitals implement the EHR systems. However, if the speed of EHR implementation does lead to the injury of New Jersey patients, medical negligence suits are likely to follow. After all, whether a health care professional enters data on a legal pad or into a computer, those individuals have a duty to patients to perform up to certain medical standards.

Source:, “More Physician Use of EHRs Could Increase Medical Malpractice Claims,” Carren Bersch, Nov. 30, 2011

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