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Physicians who use electronic health records may be less likely to pay malpractice claims

Research Activities, May 2009, No. 345

Massachusetts physicians in practices with electronic health records (EHRs) were significantly less likely to have a history of paid malpractice claims than physicians without access to EHR systems, according to a new study. However, after adjusting for factors such as sex, race, year of medical school graduation, and practice specialty, these findings were suggestive but not conclusive, the researchers said. Future studies should include information on when the physicians adopted an EHR, along with the date of any malpractice incident, the filing date of the lawsuit against them, and when it was settled. This would allow researchers to determine definitively whether or not an EHR was in use at the time of the incident.

The study, a survey of 1,345 randomly selected Massachusetts physicians, found that 6.1 percent of the physicians with EHRs had a history of paid malpractice claims versus 10.8 percent for those without EHRs. Overall, 33 percent of the responding physicians used EHRs in their practices. These physicians tended to be younger and less likely to be in solo practices than those not using EHRs. Physicians in solo practice were significantly more likely to have paid malpractice claims than physicians in practices with 10 or more physicians, even after adjusting for other factors.

Physicians who did not see outpatients or who did not have physician profiles on the Board of Registration in Medicine (BRM) Web site (which lists malpractice claims paid within the last 10 years) were excluded, because data on whether participants had paid malpractice claims was collected from the BRM Web site. The study was funded in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS15397).

More details are in "Electronic health records and malpractice claims in office practice," by Anunta Virapongse, M.D., M.P.H., David W. Bates, M.D., M.Sc., Ping Shi, M.A., and others, in the November 24, 2008 Archives of Internal Medicine 168(21), pp. 2362-2367.

Current as of May 2009
Internet Citation: Physicians who use electronic health records may be less likely to pay malpractice claims: Research Activities, May 2009, No. 345. May 2009. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://archive.ahrq.gov/news/research-activities/may09/0509RA11.html