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As Doctors Adjust to EMR Systems, Medical Malpractice Claims May Increase

It is widely believed that digitizing medical records will reduce the number of medical malpractice claims in the long term. But, in the short term, chances are good that claims of medical negligence will actually increase.

One of the early touted benefits for hospitals and physicians adopting electronic medical records (EMRs) was supposed to be discounts in their medical liability insurance. Since patient safety would likely increase with the new technology, medical liability insurers believed that medical malpractice claims would decrease and offered discounts as a result. But doctors' offices have yet to see those discounts, as medical liability insurers are now anticipating an increase in claims for the next year or two.

As with any new technology, there is expected to be an adjustment period. According to Conning Research and Consulting, publishers of a recently released study examining factors that could influence the medical insurance industry, "as systems are tested, errors with coding data input and software-interoperability failures may occur." Researchers believe that since patient data will be more easily obtained with EMRs, it will lead to easier access for attorneys, making it easier to file medical malpractice suits.

Initial evaluations of EMRs did not anticipate such problems. Insurance industry analysts believe that physicians and their support staff need to accept increased possibility of error during the adjustment period - particularly as they learn the new electronic systems.

Many industry experts believe that some regional areas will have more difficult adapting to the new systems - with economic cutbacks, many medical facilities in rural areas are understaffed and doctors overworked, making it more difficult for proper implementation and training on new EMR systems.

Despite the potential initial increase in medical malpractice claims as EMRs are implemented, researchers, insurers and doctors all agree that EMRs will eventually reduce the number of medical errors.

Source: EMRs may increase liability claims in short term

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