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Using healthcare IT to reduce malpractice suitsGuest article:
By Maria Esposito
Freelance Health Journalist

It's no secret that the cost of malpractice suits has continued to escalate, sparking continued debate as to what can be done to try to alleviate the problem. In this article, the authors suggest that the back-end approach of trying to reform malpractice laws by methodologies such as placing caps on damages has failed miserably. What they recommend is a front-end attack, reducing the number and frequency of medical errors, which would eliminate the need for the suit. The best way to accomplish this goal is by using healthcare information technology.

An important point to note here is that when the authors refer to medical errors, they are in fact referring to a bad outcome because of a medical practitioner’s failure to exercise standards of reasonable care. However, they go on to add, that not every bad outcome is actually the result of this type of failure on the part of the healthcare provider.

In this era of complex diagnostic tools and therapy options, the likelihood of medical error will increase because doctors have many more sources from which to collect information about a patient before they can make an accurate determination about the type and duration of continued treatment. If the doctor tries to gather this data in the old way, s/he will very likely miss an important piece of the puzzle that can lead to a misstep in diagnosis and the possible malpractice suit. However, using electronic medical records (EMRs) has been proven to reduce the number and frequency of medical errors by providing healthcare professionals with a much more complete picture of the patient’s history that what was available from a written chart. That's why doctors need to embrace this new technology.

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