Physicians have long complained that electronic health record systems (EHR) are inefficient, unsafe, and dangerous. This article in Modern Health outlines a lawsuit against Cerner’s EHR and reviews lawsuits which involved faulty EHRs. This article predicts athat This may be the first in a wave of such cases.
This case involves a three-hospital system called PinnacleHealth and outlines that they are suing Siemens. It outlines that Cerner Corp. purchased Siemens’ health IT business in February 2015.
The lawsuit may be be in response to a breach-of-contract lawsuit Cerner filed against PinnacleHealth as they cancelled their contract and entered into a contract with a competing EHR vendor, Epic Systems Corp.
From the article
Some experts say the PinnacleHealth-Cerner battle is among the first of what could become an avalanche of legal battles over EHRs and patient safety. For years, many patient safety advocates have warned that EHR systems carry numerous potential risks due to their poor design and the ease with which data entry errors can lead to medical mistakes.
Dr. Sarah Corley, vice chair of the HIMSS Electronic Health Records Association, said in a statement that EHR-related safety problems—and lawsuits over them—are minimal. She pointed to another study by a malpractice insurer, in this case CRICO, that, like the Doctors Co. study, found that EHR issues were associated with less than 1% of malpractice claims.
Yet another 7% were due to a lack of an EHR alert or alarm for things like obvious gender-specific entry errors, such as the case of an elderly woman who was prescribed Flomax, a drug for treating an enlarged prostate, when she should have been prescribed Flonase, a nasal spray. The woman ended up in an emergency department, complaining of dizziness.
“Anecdotally, we’re thinking we’re going to continue seeing more” cases involving EHRs, said Robin Diamond, a senior vice president of patient safety and risk management at the Doctors Co. She said that will be especially true as plaintiffs’ attorneys become more knowledgeable about EHR systems.
EHR vendors, however, aren’t often named in malpractice suits. Typically, those filing malpractice suits go after individual doctors or their hospitals and sometimes both, Koppel said. That’s partly because contracts between providers and EHR vendors typically include so-called hold-harmless clauses, saying the vendor can’t be held responsible for medical errors. Lawyers can sometimes find ways around those clauses, but they present significant barriers to winning malpractice lawsuits against vendors, Koppel said.
Going after an EHR vendor despite a hold harmless clause can mean added expense, time and complications for plaintiffs and their attorneys, said Dr. Scot Silverstein, an adjunct professor of healthcare informatics at Drexel University. “It’s only now getting on the radar of the plaintiffs’ attorneys to start to go after the actual makers of these systems,” he said.
Until now lawsuits involving patient safety and EHRs have been handled as malpractice cases, where it can be difficult to get a handle on exactly who has been named or the nature of the alleged EHR errors because most such cases settle out of court and include nondisclosure clauses that bar the plaintiffs from discussing them, said Ross Koppel, an adjunct sociology professor at the University of Pennsylvania and healthcare IT scholar.
But the number of such malpractice suits will likely continue to climb. Medical malpractice insurer the Doctors Co. closed 28 claims in 2013 involving EHRs, and nearly that many during the first two quarters of 2014. In all, the Doctors Co. closed 97 claims involving EHRs from January 2007 to June 2014.
EHR-related issues contributed to less than 1% of all claims closed by the malpractice insurer during that time. In that limited sample, 64%, involved user errors while 42% involved issues with the EHR system itself; some of those claims involved more than one contributing factor. Of those overall EHR claims, 10% involved a failure of system design, and 9% involved an electronic systems or technology failure.Typically, those filing malpractice suits go after individual doctors or their hospitals and sometimes both. Ross Koppel, an adjunct sociology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, says contracts with EHR vendors often include hold-harmless clauses protecting vendors.