Cleveland, OH (Law Firm Newswire) October 25, 2011 – Electronic health records and other tools designed to help doctors may be a blessing and a curse.
“It’s often been stated that having e-health medical records will free up an enormous amount of time for doctors and other health professionals,” commented Christopher Mellino. Mellino is a Cleveland medical malpractice lawyer and wrongful death lawyer of The Mellino Law Firm LLC, in Ohio. “These records will ensure more accurate health records, reduce errors relating to bad handwriting, provide a clear record of patient treatment and provide all treating physicians with access to necessary data relating to a patient. All these things are true, but there may also be a down side to these electronic tools – higher risks of liability.”
While it may be too soon to jump to any definite conclusions about the liability e-health records may pose, it is something worth considering in the litigious atmosphere of the USA. At a recent conference on mobile health in Cambridge, Mass., a professor of law and public health at Harvard outlined some of the reasons that electronic health records may increase a doctor’s liability and risks for any medical malpractice case they may face.
“Evidently, with the comprehensive accuracy of these types of records, meaning more documentation in relationship to clinical decisions and more detailed time stamps outlining when certain actions were carried out, this type of material would be critical evidence in a medical malpractice case,” said Mellino.
This is something that may well be a two-edged sword; it provides clarity for medical personnel and the curse of a potential goldmine of evidence for a medical negligence lawsuit. This then would beg the question, “Would doctors not use the e-health records system for fear of being sued?” Mellino suggested. “This is an interesting question, and the answer may well be that some may not use the system for that very reason. This does not mean they would not still be held liable for medical errors. In fact, not using the system may be cause for allegations of medical malpractice.”
The Harvard law professor had other things to say, including that since the e-health record systems offered the physician an almost overwhelming volume of information that the doctor may not be able to read from cover-to-cover. Doctors then may be accused of not providing a thorough patient assessment. Additionally, the risk of emailing a patient opens the door to other liability issues based on the content of the emails. “Again the electronic age may be a curse to doctors who are not looking to incur any other potential avenues of liability for doing their jobs,” added Mellino.
As it stands, the current law relating to this type of issue, when vendors and doctors are liable for electronic health record errors, is unclear. “My best advice is if you are offered a contract, and the vendor states they are immune from product liability, do not sign it,” said Mellino.
Mellino Law Firm LLC
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Cleveland, Ohio 44114
Call: (216) 241-1901