Medical malpractice litigators have found a new target: Electronic Health Records (EHRs).
Amidst the concerns of data security and protecting EHRs from breaches, certain legal teams are finding ways to exploit the imperfect nature of electronic records for legal gain.
Targeting Electronic Records
Many EHRs are designed with a digital experience in mind. Information is stored in templates that populate correctly on a screen but don’t keep the same clean format when printed. This can create confusion for those viewing the printed records—data may populate in several locations at once, giving the appearance of mismanaged records and internal disorganization.
Litigators, whose job it is to discredit medical organizations during malpractice suits, prey on this confusion and use it as an example of poor healthcare practices. The argument is that if the record itself is confusing, it stands to reason that overall care will be marginal. Legal teams can take this even further by questioning the authenticity of the data itself.
This leads to situations where healthcare providers are embroiled in malpractice disputes about quality of care, but have to defend how their medical records work. This litigation is controversial—rather than discussing the actual issues the defendants in the complaint, litigators are shifting the focus to technical failings to help win their cases. Every healthcare organization must know of this trend and do what it can to prevent EHR templates from damaging credibility.
Litigators exploiting the shortcomings of EHRs rely on one primary element for their cases—confusion. If healthcare organizations can improve their communication and documentation protocols, they will be less vulnerable to the drawbacks of EHR paper documentation.
Understanding the context of care is essential when determining how to address malpractice concerns. Organizations must be able to defend their actions in the face of scrutiny, even when printed EHRs provide irregular readouts. Questions concerning how care is viewed, which provider did what, and when they did it all contribute to understanding health outcomes. Each of these questions must be thoroughly documented for each patient to prevent legal teams from using data confusion as ammunition for malpractice suits.
In addition, communication between C-suite staff, caregivers, and EHR providers must be seamless and transparent. Litigators targeting EHRs rely on the inherent disorganization that comes from transferring digital information into print. When processes and patient care are documented thoroughly, they become easy to understand at a glance. This helps reduce the likelihood that litigators can leverage the weaknesses of printed digital templates to discredit healthcare providers.
Written by Desh Urs
Desh Urs brings more than 20 years of entrepreneurial, start-up and Global 500 corporate experience in sales, marketing, and general management to the customers of iBridge. He has led sales organizations as SVP at Qsent, Inc. and VP at Acxiom Corporation, and has focused on the usage of data in data distribution, direct marketing, fraud prevention, and law enforcement.
As a Vice President of Global Sales, Services, and Marketing at Silicon Graphics, Inc., Urs managed engineering and non-engineering functions, developing solutions in sciences, telecommunications, manufacturing, media, business, and defense intelligence, for companies with revenues of several billion dollars. During his tenure as Vice President at Think Tools AG and Brio Technology, Inc., he ran business development and alliances providing solutions in Business Intelligence and Decisions Cycle Management to Global 100 corporations worldwide. In the late 1980s, Urs founded Indus Systems, Inc., which he profitably sold to a systems integration company.
Urs serves on several Advisory Boards, as well as many company Boards, in the United States and India.