(HealthDay News) — Use of electronic health records (EHRs) is associated with fewer medical malpractice claims among physicians from multiple surgical and medical specialties, according to a research letter published online June 25 in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Mariah A. Quinn, M.D., M.P.H., from Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates in Boston, and colleagues merged closed-claims data from a major malpractice insurer in Massachusetts for physicians covered from 1995 to 2007 with data from survey responses from a random sample of Massachusetts physicians in 2005 (275 physicians) and 2007 (189 physicians). The association between EHR adoption and malpractice claims was examined.

The researchers found that 14.3 percent of the 189 physicians surveyed in both years were named in at least one malpractice claim. Of the 275 physicians who responded in 2005 and/or 2007, 33 physicians from multiple surgical and medical specialties incurred 51 unique claims. Forty-nine of these were related to events that occurred before adoption of EHRs, while two were associated with events that occurred after EHR adoption. EHR use correlated with a reduced rate of malpractice claims (estimated relative risk, 0.16).

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“While this study includes only a small number of post-EHR claims, it suggests that implementation of EHRs may reduce malpractice claims and, at the least, appears not to increase claims as providers adapt to using EHRs,” the authors write. “The reduction in claims seen in this study among physicians who adopted EHRs lends support to the push for widespread implementation of health information technology.”

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