A new study reveals that medical malpractice claims significantly dipped for a group of Massachusetts physicians after they began using electronic records, according to a U.S. News report. Electronic records, or e-records, allow physicians to utilize computers to track patients rather than relying on paper files. Supporters of this advanced form of record keeping assert that it cuts down on errors by making it easier for doctors to spot potential problems, such as medication conflicts. E-records may also make it easier for physicians to communicate with patients and other physicians. The medical world has not been quick to embrace e-records, largely because of the cost of switching from paper, and some physicians feel that e-records may create new kinds of errors and problems for patients.
The study tracked malpractice cases for 275 physicians who were surveyed by researchers in 2005 and 2007. Of those surveyed, 33 were targeted for malpractice claims, and 49 of the malpractice claims took place before the physicians adopted electronic health records and only two occurred after. The study’s researchers approximate that medical malpractice claims were about 84 percent less likely after electronic records were put in place, though presently it’s not clear if the electronic recordkeeping was linked to the decline in claims. A co-author of the study does feel that the research shows that e-records can improve safety and quality, in turn reducing the risk of a malpractice claim.