Healthcare IT Expert Exposes Hidden Risks of Lawsuits Due to Electronic Health Record

DELRAY BEACH, Fla., Feb. 8, 2012 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Since the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) passed in February 2009 and caused a digital tsunami in the healthcare industry, physicians have been scrambling to comply with the requirement to switch to electronic health record systems. (EHRs) While many in the healthcare industry laud the use of EHRs to improve quality of care and analyzing patient outcomes, Dr. Sam Bierstock, founder of Champions In Healthcare, (www.sambierstock.com) points out significant concerns regarding increased vulnerability to medical legal claims that may result from the use of EHRs without major tort reform that would relieve physicians of an onslaught of malpractice suits.

“EHRs unquestionably have the potential to improve patient safety and the quality of care delivered, but what few people realize is that using an EHR exposes physicians to an Orwellian level of analysis of every single act while doing their job,” said Bierstock, who has advocated and pioneered the use and benefits of EHRs for more than 30 years.” EHRs, however, can also be audited to examine how long it took them to act after an abnormal lab result came in, if the doctor checked on on-line references before making a clinical decision, what was said in every email and how long the doctor took to respond, and even how long the doctor looked at a screen or scrolled down to read an entire document. Physicians are exposing themselves to an unacceptable level of scrutiny and analysis of their use of computers that may serve to encourage malpractice suits. Meaningful tort reform is essential to getting the maximal benefit from these wonderful systems.”

According to Bierstock, the problem runs even deeper because during his career as an industry consultant with Champions in Healthcare, and as a speaker at healthcare events he has noticed that the vast majority of physicians are still not aware of the complex requirements imposed upon them by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act even though it has been a law for more than two years.

“I talk to many physicians who have no idea they can suffer financial, civil and even criminal penalties (i.e. jail) for non-compliance.,” said Bierstock. “I have been asked to speak about this topic many times, but beyond HITECH, it’s my opinion that similarly, doctors and hospitals don’t yet fully realize their medical legal vulnerability associated with the use of EHRs. This will be the case until there is major tort reform, which has unfortunately been thwarted by the influence of American Trial Attorneys and their associations.”

Bierstock noted that in an effort to stimulate physicians and hospitals to install and use EHRs, The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 also authorized the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to issue guidelines which define what is “Meaningful Use” of an EHR – guidelines which must be met in order for hospitals and doctors to receive financial incentive payments for using EHRs, or be penalized by having Medicare or Medicaid payments reduced for failure to meet the guidelines. Bierstock believes that if physicians are expected to embrace EHRS, they should be allowed to do so in a manner that maximizes the benefits of these systems to the delivery of care and to the benefit of their patients without worrying about giving unlimited ammunition to trial lawyers.

“Quite simply, physicians may be in a situation that leaves them vulnerable to litigation and threatens loss of their professional standing and personal assets – all because an external evaluator may not think the physician lived up to arguable standards in the digital age,” said Bierstock. “Overall, EHRs are the litigator’s proverbial golden goose. They are to malpractice attorneys what the electron microscope is to microbiology.”

Dr. Sam Bierstock is a physician-informaticist, featured healthcare industry speaker, and a nationally recognized authority on physician adoption of clinical technologies to improve the delivery of healthcare. He has published more than 100 articles, and appeared on every major television network and in national print media features. He first received national attention in 1996 with his good-natured and satirical lambasting of HMO’s through parody songs, and was awarded the George Washington Honor Medal from the Freedoms Foundation for his work on behalf of our nations veterans, including authoring a national hit song “Before You Go” (www.beforeyougo.us) in tribute to our aging veterans.

To inquire about booking Dr. Bierstock for speaking engagements, contact Rob Cohen at (954) 370-7000. To interview Dr. Bierstock, contact Rhonda Price at (561) 371-9407.

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