Electronic health record systems likely will soon become a fixture in medical settings. Advocates claim they will reduce health care costs and improve medical outcomes, which could be critical since the new health care reform law increases access for millions of Americans. Although benefits of bringing information technology to health records can be substantial, EHR systems also give rise to increased liability risks for health care providers due to possible software or hardware problems or user errors.
Two Case Western Reserve University professors, in a scholarly article published in the Berkeley Technology Law Journal, shed light on liability concerns and electronic health records systems. Until now, such a linkage has received little attention in the legal literature.
Sharona Hoffman, professor of law and bioethics and co-director of Case Western Reserve's Law-Medicine Center, and her husband, Andy Podgurski, professor of computer science at the university's School of Engineering, have written "E-Health Hazards: Provider Liability and Electronic Health Record Systems," which offers a comprehensive analysis of the liability risks associated with use of this complex and important technology.
Hoffman and Podgurski are well known for their research and findings documenting a national need for effective EHR regulation. They analyzed the need for federal regulation of electronic health record systems in the scholarly article "Finding a Cure: The Case for Regulation and Oversight of Electronic Health Record Systems" (Harvard Journal of Law and Technology, 2009). That paper came after two previous publications by the two on security and privacy issues of electronic health records.
"This new piece focuses on health care providers' liability. Are they at greater risk for malpractice claims? Are they at greater risk for privacy breach claims? And I think the answer to all of that is yes," Hoffman said in describing the thrust of the article.
"It's very personal to health care providers," she said. "It's what everybody who sits at that computer and uses it to manage patient care needs to know."
At first glance, a quick transition to digital heath records seems a normal, even overdue part of the wider flow of high-tech change. It may seem surprising that many health care professionals continue to jot down notes and prescriptions on paper.
Even so, many doctors might not be fully aware of the fresh liability risk, Podgurski said. Problems providing are can arise, for example, if an EHR system contains software bugs, if it is too complicated, or if training for users is insufficient.
"Whether or not there is a software bug, in the sense of a clear error that causes a wrong output, the usability of the system may be lacking, and that may lead a user to make mistakes that have safety implications," he said.
The authors make a strong case that without thoughtful intervention and sound guidance from government and medical organizations, EHR technology may encumber rather than support clinicians and may hinder rather than promote health outcome improvements. Aiming to prevent potential problems, Hoffman and Podgurski propose a uniform process for developing authoritative clinical practice guidelines, and they explore how EHR technology can assist in determining best practices. They offer recommendations to address liability concerns.
Congress has made a $19 billion investment in promoting health information technology, provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services seeks to achieve nationwide usage of electronic health records by 2014.
So now is the best time to consider pitfalls. While the new Hoffman-Podgurski article draws attention to concerns over how EHR technology can lead to problems with patient care, the authors also point out that EHR system purchasers may never know about product flaws, because no regulation requires such disclosure, and some vendor contracts even prohibit it.
"If a computer problem causes an error in somebody's drug prescription, medication dosage or surgical procedure, that can be catastrophic," Hoffman said.
Case Western Reserve University is among the nation's leading research institutions. Founded in 1826 and shaped by the unique merger of the Case Institute of Technology and Western Reserve University, Case Western Reserve is distinguished by its strengths in education, research, service, and experiential learning. Located in Cleveland, Case Western Reserve offers nationally recognized programs in the Arts and Sciences, Dental Medicine, Engineering, Law, Management, Medicine, Nursing, and Social Work.
Marv Kropko | EurekAlert!
Deep Learning predicts hematopoietic stem cell development
21.02.2017 | Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt
Sensors embedded in sports equipment could provide real-time analytics to your smartphone
16.02.2017 | University of Illinois College of Engineering
Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...
The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.
The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...
Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...
Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".
Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...
13.02.2017 | Event News
10.02.2017 | Event News
09.02.2017 | Event News
21.02.2017 | Earth Sciences
21.02.2017 | Medical Engineering
21.02.2017 | Trade Fair News