While the adoption of electronic health record (EHR) systems promises a number of substantial benefits, including better care and decreased healthcare costs, serious unintended consequences from the implementation of these systems have emerged. Poor EHR system design and improper use can cause EHR-related errors that jeopardize the integrity of the information in the EHR, leading to errors that endanger patient safety or to increased incidence of fraud and abuse. The unintended consequences from the use of EHR systems have serious legal implications, such as increased medical liability exposure and prosecution for fraud. In spite of the potential for serious patient harm, higher healthcare costs, and greater medical liability risk, inadequate industry and government action has been taken to systematically identify the types and causes of EHR-related errors and prevent their future occurrence. This article addresses unintended consequences of EHR system implementation and their legal implications, and recommends strategies to prevent EHR-related adverse events and decrease associated medical liability risk. The anticipated benefits of EHRs will only be fully achieved through federal leadership that ensures EHR systems are designed and used properly – to promote high-quality care and comply with health record legal and business requirements.
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