An 'unintended consequence' of EHR adoption: Litigation discovery

AHIMA weighs in on the role of electronic records in legal evidence-gathering
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Of the more than 300 comments have been submitted regarding proposed changes to the gathering of evidence during litigation, the American Health Information Management Association is the first to address the role electronic health records in discovery. 

The federal government has proposed revisions to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that would change the discovery of electronic information, make the discovery process less burdensome, improve litigation management and protect against sanctions in certain instances when evidence wasn't retained.  

In a recent comment letter, AHIMA CEO Lynne Thomas Gordon points out that the group's members play a "key role in e-discovery" but that the healthcare industry "is still primarily focused on the implementation of EHRs and their use in providing clinical care, rather than establishing new systems, processes and policies to respond to litigation and regulatory investigations." 

Health information management professionals must be actively involved early in discovery and expressed concern about adverse consequences on those who fail to preserve discoverable information, according to the letter.

"AHIMA notes that in the context of the healthcare industry and the discovery of electronically stored information needed for litigation, a regulatory investigation or an administrative proceeding, the electronic and/or paper medical record alone will not provide the whole story as to what happened in a case," Gordon says. "Medical malpractice cases are very complex litigation matters and will become even more so as the unintended consequences related to the widespread adoption of EHRs and establishment of our nation's new health information infrastructure increase."

Recent studies have found that EHRs increase malpractice risk and won't reduce insurance premiums.

The comment period is open until Feb. 15, 2014. The government is also holding hearings on the proposed changes.

To learn more:
- here's AHIMA's comment letter
- read the proposed revisions and submit comments

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