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Electronic health records and their use in malpractice cases

New Jersey medical providers have been using electronic health records at an increased pace for the past several years. For many patients, seeing their physician typing on a laptop during a visit is now routine.

Because of their increasing use, EHRs are changing how some medical malpractice cases are being handled as well. Some of the most valuable features of EHRs can lead to errors. Copying and pasting information to or from the wrong record, failing to review and confirm fields that auto-complete and using default templates without validation can result in mistakes in patient care with serious negative consequences.

EHRs may change the standard of care threshold that governs most malpractice cases. They provide easy access to more information than paper records, and this may create a duty to search for information that previously would have gone unnoticed. Overriding an alert generated by an EHR may be a departure from the standard of care even if there are no negative consequences. Given the widespread availability and use of EHRs, the fact that a provider continues to use a paper medical record may itself be considered a deviation from the standard of care. As a result, a jury may not put as much faith in paper record evidence as it would in the same information contained in an EHR.

There is little argument that EHRs have great potential to improve patient care and provider decision-making. However, they are also becoming a prominent factor in courtrooms across the country as well. An individual who has experienced a negative medical outcome may want to consult an attorney to determine whether it was the result of provider negligence. The attorney may be able to review the electronic record in order to assess whether doctor error contributed to the outcome.

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