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Mar 12 2018

Amended Position Statement: Electronic Health Records

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[Excerpted from the position statement entitled, Medical record documentation]

The promise and potential of information technology in health care, particularly the use of electronic health records (EHR), presents providers with distinct challenges. While the Board encourages the adoption and appropriate use of various forms of EHR there are some unique aspects and problems that have been repeatedly encountered by the Board, some of which are discussed below. This subsection does not identify all of the issues and problems encountered by providers using EHR. Rather it is meant to identify issues which the Board has repeatedly found to be problematic in malpractice cases and complaints coming to the Board’s attention. It is important to recognize that this, and other Board position statements, are not comprehensive and do not describe exhaustively every standard that might apply in every circumstance. Basic, well-established principles of medical record documentation, as outlined above, apply to all forms of medical record documentation, including EHR.

The following guidelines are offered to assist licensees in meeting their ethical and legal obligations:

EHR Deficiencies. Providers, on occasion, attribute errors or lack of follow-up, such as missed or lost abnormal laboratory results or x-ray reports, to deficiencies in their EHR. This is not acceptable. Providers must be aware of the idiosyncrasies and weaknesses of the EHR system they are using and adjust their practice accordingly. Providers are ultimately responsible for the adequate oversight and monitoring of the EHR.

Responsibility of Licensees. EHR are becoming increasing sophisticated and may provide flags for follow-up care or other clinical decision-making support, such as health maintenance recommendations. While an EHR system may assist in the clinical decision-making process, it is not responsible for decision making. For example, it is not acceptable to blame an EHR because it failed to recommend particular testing. Increasingly elaborate documentation, clinical management, and productivity tools may also result in increased opportunities for errors or omissions. These errors are a failure of the provider to assume appropriate responsibility for the care of the patient. In the end, decision-making responsibility rests solely with the provider; regardless of the information or notices provided by the EHR.

Use of Templates. The Board cautions against overuse of template content or reliance on EHR software which pre-populates, carries forward, or clones information from one encounter to the next, or from different providers, without the provider carefully reviewing and updating all information. Documentation of clinical findings for each patient encounter must accurately and contemporaneously reflect the actual care provided.

Availability of, or Access to, Medical Records. Physicians must be able to provide patient medical records in a timely manner for various situations, such as consultations, transfer of care to another provider, or practice closure. The Board has encountered situations where providers were unable to access their patients’ medical records due to fee or other disputes with the EHR vendor. This is particularly true when the medical records are maintained off site (cloud storage). Providers must understand provisions of their contract with the EHR vendor in this regard. These principles of medical record access apply as well to telemedicine providers.

Breakdown of Patient-Provider Communication. Misunderstandings and miscommunications between patients, patient family members, practitioners, and office staff generate a substantial percentage of complaints received by the Board. Many EHR systems allow direct patient-provider communication (i.e. “patient portal”). While this form of communication can facilitate communication, such as follow-up of lab or x-ray results or medication refills, they also place a responsibility on the provider to provide timely responses to legitimate requests from patients for feedback or information.

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