Background: Electronic health records (EHRs) may improve patient safety and health care quality, but the relationship between EHR adoption and settled malpractice claims is unknown.
Methods: Between June 1, 2005, and November 30, 2005, we surveyed a random sample of 1884 physicians in Massachusetts to assess availability and use of EHR functions, predictors of use, and perceptions of medical practice. Information on paid malpractice claims was accessed on the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine (BRM) Web site in April 2007. We used logistic regression to assess the relationship between the adoption and use of EHRs and paid malpractice claims.
Results: The survey response rate was 71.4% (1345 of 1884). Among 1140 respondents with data on the presence of EHR and available BRM records, 379 (33.2%) had EHRs. A total of 6.1% of physicians with an EHR had a history of a paid malpractice claim compared with 10.8% of physicians without EHRs (unadjusted odds ratio, 0.54; 95% confidence interval, 0.33-0.86; P = .01). In logistic regression analysis controlling for sex, race, year of medical school graduation, specialty, and practice size, the relationship between EHR adoption and paid malpractice settlements was of smaller magnitude and no longer statistically significant (adjusted odds ratio, 0.69; 95% confidence interval, 0.40-1.20; P = .18). Among EHR adopters, 5.7% of physicians identified as "high users" of EHR had paid malpractice claims compared with 12.1% of "low users" (P = .14).
Conclusions: Although the results of this study are inconclusive, physicians with EHRs appear less likely to have paid malpractice claims. Confirmatory studies are needed before these results can have policy implications.