The Role of Electronic Medical Records in Mitigating Malpractice Claims

The medical record of a patient serves as both a comprehensive record of their health and care, as well as a legal document that provides the best defense against malpractice claims. Proper documentation is essential in proving whether appropriate care was provided. Over the past decade, there has been a significant increase in malpractice claims, and doctors and healthcare providers must protect themselves by ensuring they are covered by insurance and have proper documentation. Negligence on the part of the doctor can easily be proven in the absence of good documentation, which may have been lost or stolen.
To minimize the risk of medical errors, adverse patient outcomes, and medical liability, it is crucial to maintain accurate, complete, relevant, and up-to-date patient documentation, regardless of whether it is paper-based or electronic. Best practices include avoiding cut-and-paste practices that may result in mixed or contradictory messaging, refraining from making unsolicited comments, using standardized formats, and double-checking information before finalizing a chart entry. Any alterations made to the record must be documented, timestamped, and signed, and attached documents, such as diagrams, laboratory results, photographs, and charts, must always be labeled.

Electronic Medical Health Records (EMRs) provide added benefits in reducing the risk of malpractice claims. EMRs timestamp all data inputted, making it clear when an action was taken, and maintain a record of deleted notes with the reason for removal from the patient timeline, preserving a patient’s file’s integrity. EMRs also standardize and organize data, enable communication with patients, and track file access, all of which are useful in minimizing the risk of malpractice.

Ultimately, proper documentation of patient care is essential, regardless of whether it is done electronically or on paper. Good documentation practices benefit both the patient and the healthcare provider and help keep doctors where they are needed, with their patients, and not in the courtroom. While EMRs provide added benefits, healthcare providers should ensure that their documentation effectively communicates with all parties who may need to review the information. It is essential to consult with professional advisors familiar with your particular situation before making any decisions.

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