Medical Errors and Electronic Recordkeeping

19-08-6Can the increasing use of electronic records at hospitals and other medical facilities result in more medical mistakes? According to a recent article from Medscape, electronic health records in emergency departments could be leading to preventable medical errors. In most circumstances, we might assume that the use of electronic health records would help healthcare facilities to avoid the kinds of mistakes that result from human error. However, as the article suggests, human error can still factor into electronic health databases—and in fact might be more of an issue than before the age of electronic health records.

Wrong Files, Wrong Clicks, and Misinformation

It is all too easy, as the article intimates, for a mouse to slip and for an emergency room physician to click on the wrong file or to enter a dosage number that is much larger than it is supposed to be. At the same time, other employees tasked with entering information such as symptoms into a patient’s file might misread a name or enter that information into the wrong section, resulting in a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis. To be sure, “these are easy mistakes to make,” and “as ER doctors and nurses grapple with the transition to digitized record systems, they seem to happen more frequently,” according to the article.

The digital age has brought about a new trend in patient safety errors that simply did not exist when hospitals and other healthcare facilities relied upon paper, handwritten records. While electronic health records (EHRs), which have been pushed at various facilities through financial incentives from the government, likely will be more efficient than paper records in the long run, it is a difficult switch in the short term.

Higher Error Rates for EHRs

Older electronic record programs have been in use at hospitals for a little while now, but EHRs are different. They are intended to be compatible with one another (despite a hospital’s location in the country, for example) such that patients can receive quality care even if they require treatment at a substitute hospital. However, because of the way EHRs have been created, they are not compatible with the electronic record programs that currently exist at most hospitals. And as a result, experts expect more medical errors in the early days of using EHRs.

According to Jesse Pines, the director of the Office for Clinical Practice Innovation at the George Washington University, the use of EHRs have resulted in numerous medical errors, including but not limited to:

  • Ordering the wrong medications;
  • Missing important patient information (due to confusing displays);
  • Entering incorrect patient care instructions; and
  • Missing specific patient instructions.

Yet as Pines explains, these mistakes might not solely be the result of human error. Pines drafted a report indicating that “a growing body of evidence suggests that many errors may be the result of poor design rather than user errors.” Now, it is important for healthcare workers to get used to these new systems so that mistakes do not happen.

In the meantime, medical errors resulting from EHRs may result in medical malpractice cases. If you or someone you love sustained an injury because of a medical mistake, you may be able to seek compensation. An experienced San Diego medical malpractice lawyer can assist you today. Contact the Walton Law Firm for more details.

See Related Blog Posts:
What Should You Know About Medical Errors?
Preventable Pediatric Medical Errors

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