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Electronic health record systems may pose risk for care providers

June 28, 2010

The promise of electronic health records (EHR) seems clear: The digital records of everything from prescriptions to CT scans could raise the quality and lower the cost of healthcare.

Fulfilling this promise is likely to become more urgent as healthcare reform brings 35 million more Americans into the health insurance fold, all needing care.

Some of us worry about the security and privacy of our electronic medical information. But what about the liability risks EHR systems pose to care providers?

Two Case Western Reserve University professors say potential software or hardware problems, as well as user errors, could make the systems liabilities.

“Plaintiffs whose alleged injuries are associated with EHR systems could sue healthcare providers for medical malpractice,” wrote Sharona Hoffman, professor of law and bioethics, and co-director of Case Western Reserve’s Law-Medicine Center, and her husband, Andy Podgurski, professor of computer science at the university’s School of Engineering, in their article E-Health Hazards: Provider Liability and Electronic Health Record System published in the Berkeley Technology Law Journal.

“Those who believe that their records were improperly disclosed to third parties could assert privacy violation claims,” Hoffman and Podgurski said in their paper. “In addition, providers accused of negligent EHR-system use could face disciplinary proceedings initiated by professional organizations, government enforcement actions, criminal prosecutions and other adverse consequences.”

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