Electronic Health RecordsPublished: Jun 19, 2019 in Medical Malpractice, Personal Injury, Product Liability
The digitization of medical records was supposed to reduce medical errors, save money, and provide patients with a way to have quick and easy access to their medical histories. Yet, 10 years after its implementation, the system has not produced the intended positive effects. A recent investigation details the ways in which electronic health records (EHRs) are, in practice, inefficient, costly, and dangerous.
In 2009, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which included a financial incentive program designed to encourage health care providers to adopt EHR technology; the federal government invested $36 billion to the cause. Under the EHR mandate in the Act, all health care providers were required to demonstrate meaningful use of EHRs by January 2014 or face penalties.
Since the implementation of EHRs, the number of people who say that their physician uses a computer-based medical record has nearly doubled since 2009. In 2008, just nine percent of hospitals had adopted EHRs; that number has now increased to 96 percent.
Are EHRs Reliable?
A federal investigation into an EHR provider, eClinicalWorks revealed numerous glitches in the system, which produced incorrect patient medication lists, missing lab results, and other unreliable information. In 2017, the company paid a $155 million settlement to resolve a False Claims Act lawsuit. According to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont, it was the largest financial recovery in the state of Vermont. However, more than 850,000 U.S. health professionals still use eClinicalWorks software today.
Joint Investigation Reveals Negative Consequences of EHRs
A recent investigation by Kaiser Health News and Fortune magazine uncovered various negative consequences of electronic health records, including:
- Inaccuracy: Software glitches and other system flaws put patients’ safety at risk. Inaccurate digital information has already caused thousands of patient injuries and fatalities due to medical mistakes, such as being prescribed the wrong medication.
- Fraud: According to federal officials, EHR software can be misused by doctors who engage in upcoding, a fraudulent practice where medical professionals report that they provided a more expensive service than they did. Two software companies have already paid more than $200 million in settlements.
- Conflicting Interests: EHR vendors often make buyers sign contracts that include gag clauses designed to discourage them from publicly reporting software failures. Also, hospitals can be uncooperative when it comes to sending over records to other hospitals because they do not want to lose patients to competitors.
- Physician Burnout: EHRs are a major contributor to physician burnout, a widespread public health crisis. In a 2018 Physician Survey, physicians identified EHRs as the single most important pain point that they are confronted with in practice.
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