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Electronic Health Records and Computer Malpractice

Stethoscope and ComputerIn this age of electronic everything, it seems a natural progression that health records would become almost entirely computerized. However, such a process is not without its potential hazards. If you visit a medical professional, you should be aware of how this process can affect you and be ready to protect yourself. Certain acts or omissions may lead to potential malpractice suits.

Computer Malpractice

Traditional medical malpractice is attributed to negligence, which means that a duty of reasonable care from one person to another was breached through reckless conduct. To prove malpractice, a patient must show that a medical professional breached their duty of care (usually mandated by law), and that their conduct was the direct cause of the harm done to the patient.

However, a new consideration, usually referred to as computer malpractice, has appeared with the advent of electronic health records (EHRs), and can owe more to simple glitches than any action of the humans using them. There are multiple causes of computer malpractice that do not necessarily owe anything to human negligence, but can still cause harm to a patient. Some include:

  • Glitches: No computer system is perfect, and sometimes, a particular system may fail to work properly.
  • System design defects: This differs from a glitch; system design defects would fall under the legal theory known as product liability;
  • User error: While user error is naturally made by humans, it very often falls short of negligence. Not every mistake is reckless or egregious; some are at least comprehensible, especially in a system where workers are constantly busy and expected to remember a large amount of information very quickly; and
  • Data breaches: Hospitals can be held responsible if they are the victim of a data breach due to negligence on their part.

Assigning fault for problems like glitches can be very difficult, and these pursuing such cases often be very time-consuming. Depending on the nature of the error, some hospitals may settle immediately, while others may choose to aggressively defend the case.

Positive Outcomes

Sometimes, EHRs can actually lead to improvements. While there is almost always an initial learning curve, studies have shown that fewer errors occur after a few months using an electronic system than occur using hand-written files. Also, EHRs can be valuable tools for a patient who brings suit against their doctor. A patient’s electronic health records contain virtually every piece of information a doctor might use to diagnose. If something is missing, that can potentially be persuasive evidence against the medical professional.

An important note is that as EHRs become more widespread, they may have an effect on the very standard of medical care. For example, with a patient’s entire history able to be at a doctor’s fingertips, there will be fewer excuses for past interactions and side effects to be missed. The higher the standard, the more often doctors and medical professionals will be held accountable for failing to meet it.

Contact A Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you believe that computer problems contributed to the harm you suffered at the hands of a physician, we may be able to assist. The dedicated San Jose medical malpractice attorneys at Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. have years of experience trying malpractice cases; we know how to approach a problem in the most appropriate way possible. Contact us today for a free consultation. We serve San Jose, the Bay Area, and the counties of San Benito, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Alameda and Monterey.

Client Reviews
My experience with Attorney Brad Corsiglia during my recent medical malpractice case was nothing short of amazing given the very stressful circumstances. I was fortunate to find Brad highly recommended from a mutual contact and from the very beginning of the process, Brad was truly engaged and knowledgeable in understanding my case and providing input on what avenues were available to me. Michelle M.