, Volume 28, Issue 5, pp 637-644

Impact of Electronic Health Records on Malpractice Claims in a Sample of Physician Offices in Colorado: A Retrospective Cohort Study

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ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND

Electronic health records (EHRs) might reduce medical liability claims and potentially justify premium credits from liability insurers, but the evidence is limited.

OBJECTIVES

To evaluate the association between EHR use and medical liability claims in a population of office-based physicians, including claims that could potentially be directly prevented by features available in EHRs (“EHR-sensitive” claims).

DESIGN

Retrospective cohort study of medical liability claims and analysis of claim abstracts.

PARTICIPANTS

The 26 % of Colorado office-based physicians insured through COPIC Insurance Company who responded to a survey on EHR use (894 respondents out of 3,502 invitees).

MAIN MEASURES

Claims incidence rate ratio (IRR); prevalence of “EHR-sensitive” claims.

KEY RESULTS

473 physicians (53 % of respondents) used an office-based EHR. After adjustment for sex, birth cohort, specialty, practice setting and use of an EHR in settings other than an office, IRR for all claims was not significantly different between EHR users and non-users (0.88, 95 % CI 0.52–1.46; p = 0.61), or for users after EHR implementation as compared to before (0.73, 95 % CI 0.41–1.29; p = 0.28). Of 1,569 claim abstracts reviewed, 3 % were judged “Plausibly EHR-sensitive,” 82 % “Unlikely EHR-sensitive,” and 15 % “Unable to determine.” EHR-sensitive claims occurred in six out of 633 non-users and two out of 251 EHR users. Incidence rate ratios were 0.01 for both groups.

CONCLUSIONS

Colorado physicians using office-based EHRs did not have significantly different rates of liability claims than non-EHR users; nor were rates different for EHR users before and after EHR implementation. The lack of significant effect may be due to a low prevalence of EHR-sensitive claims. Further research on EHR use and medical liability across a larger population of physicians is warranted.