Physicians that use electronic medical records are less likely to pay out malpractice settlements, according to a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine
Anunta Virapongse and colleagues at Harvard Medical School surveyed a random sample of 1884 Massachusetts physicians to assess EMR utilization and obtained information about paid malpractice claims from the state’s Board of Registration in Medicine Web site.
The scientists found that 6.1% of physicians using an EMR had paid a malpractice claim, whereas 10.8% of those not using an EMR had done so. This difference was significant, but analyses including variables like gender, race, age and practice size diminished the difference. The resulting trend was not significant.
A subgroup analysis revealed that only 5.7% of frequent EMR users had paid malpractice claims, whereas 12.1% of infrequent users had done so. As above, the small sample sizes prevented the trend from achieving significance. The results therefore need to be validated before serving as a basis for policy formulation.
EMRs can reduce malpractice risk by improving follow-up of test results, reducing prescription errors and improving adherence to best practices. The exquisite documentation of care facilitated by EMRs can also help the defense in a malpractice case.
If these trends are confirmed, malpractice insurers could conceivably lower premiums for groups that adopt EMRs, an additional incentive to invest in the expensive systems.