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EMRs and medical malpractice lawsuits

As more and more of New Mexico's hospitals are relying on electronic medical records, these records are becoming increasingly important in medical malpractice cases. Verdicts in medical malpractice cases are increasingly turning on the documentation that is included or missing from EMRs, leading to significant jury awards to plaintiffs.

According to a clinical professor of medicine at UCLA, these records are sometimes not used properly by hospitals and medical staff, leading to costly errors for the medical professionals who rely upon them as well as for the patients who are being treated. The professor, a sought-after expert in numerous medical malpractice cases around the country, indicates that EMRs are becoming an increasingly important part of trials and legal discussions.

Examples provided by the professor from various cases include an error caused by the EMR not translating lab work information correctly, people altering data within the EMR to generate flowcharts and thus changing the inputted information, and a judge's exclusion of an EMR entirely due to staff cutting and pasting information into it. Medical professionals are becoming more aware of the problems with EMRs, including failures to get electronic signatures on informed consent paperwork, altering medical records and using templates from one patient to the next.

Hospitals tout EMRs as a way to make medical care safer and more efficient. However, when they provide inadequate training to the medical staff that will be relying on them, patients may suffer serious injuries from the errors that result. Those who have been harmed as a result of these failures may want to consider obtaining the advice of a medical malpractice attorney. Legal counsel can review the EMR to determine if it reflects errors committed by the medical staff who relied on it. If it appears that negligence in fact occurred, the attorney may decide to file a medical malpractice lawsuit on behalf of the injured client.

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