Electronic medical records (EMRs) are regularly used nationwide, including in Oregon, but they have developed into a kind of double-edged sword, according to some practitioners and academic experts. These records can give medical professionals a complete view of a patient's medical picture, and they can do it quickly, so that treating physicians need never have sparse records again. However, the records are often mismanaged or interpreted improperly and, in effect, have resulted in the occurrence of physician and hospital negligence in several cases.

One medical doctor who is an expert on the use, and misuse, of EMRs was interviewed about the phenomenon. He identified several cases in which malpractice awards in the millions of dollars were entered against doctors and hospitals due to deficient use of the EMRs. Therefore, he describes a situation in which EMRs can improve care, while also resulting in critical mistakes that end up costing millions in compensatory damages to injured patients.

EMRs do not necessarily track lab tests very well, according to the UCLA professor who is an expert on EMRs. It also occurs that sometimes the doctor cannot make sense of the EMR. Sometimes it is unclear from the format of the records which prior physician's treatment and care is being referenced. EMRs have also been misused by some health care providers who do not realize the moral implications of changing the records to transform them into graphs or charts.

As it turns out, the advent of EMRs nationally, including in Oregon, has actually resulted in a new basis on which plaintiffs can build a doctor or hospital negligence claim. These claims are not artificially constructed -- the fact is that medical providers who do not know how to read, interpret or use the records are actually committing physician and hospital negligence as a result. New users of EMRs may be the most prone to these mistakes. It has been shown that experience, specialized training and education are helpful in improving the medical provider's ability to use EMRs safely and securely.

Source: healthcareitnews.com, "EMRs can be costly in malpractice suits", Mike Miliard, April 13, 2015