Could Your Electronic Health Record End Up Leading To A Medical Injury?

Your medical chart used to be a physical file with pages where the doctor could make handwritten notes about your condition and care. Especially progressive physicians might spend a couple minutes talking into a tape recorder so that the notes could be transcribed and added to the chart later for easier reading. Now—nearly every office uses some form of electronic health record (EHR)—and patients are getting injured as a result. Could your EHR be behind your medical injury? This is what you should know.

Electronic Health Records Are Full Of Flaws

One of the biggest problems with EHRs is that they show physicians and nurses down—new technology can be frustrating, especially if someone is used to simply swiping through something with a pen and moving on to the next field. That leads to frustration with the EHR that can cause otherwise good doctors or nurses to make common mistakes:

  • Cutting and pasting from old records, without verifying the information. That means that if someone made an error in your medical records before and forgot to list your allergy to morphine, it could get left off the list of any doctor who shares the same EHR system. Do you see a number of doctors in the same network? They're all going to see the same mistake—and you could be in danger as a result.
  • Ignoring alerts from the EHR's clinical decision support feature—which is designed to warn doctors about possible drug interactions or allergies. Physicians can get overwhelmed with the constant barrage of alerts and simply stop paying attention to them—so a doctor could prescribe you a drug that interacts badly with a drug that a different doctor prescribed and simply overlook the alert.
  • Sloppy or incorrect transfer of information can also cause your physician or attending nurse to make mistakes. Since some of these EHRs are relying on data entry to clerks to "backfill" records from paper files, your file could have numerous small errors in it—which could lead to a big mistake. A missed lab report that shows elevated liver enzymes, for example, could be the sign of a major problem with your liver that doesn't show physical symptoms yet for several years.

The Failure Of EHRs To Adequately Document Patient Care Is Well-Known

The problems with EHRs are well-known to clinicians, if not patients. In one study by the VA, 84% of the notes in their EHR had errors and the records averaged 7.8 documentation errors per patient. In another case, the manufacturer of the EHR knew that there was a flaw in the system that caused words to be deleted—but they didn't notify their users. In another case, a witness in a malpractice case boldly admitted that the electronic records could be "massaged" to filter out items so that flow charts and graphs could be made. Perhaps the worst news of all is that the person filling out your electronic records at the hospital or doctor's office simply doesn't know how to do it. One study found that 90% of the programs didn't offer adequate training.

EHRs May Also Limit Your Doctor's Ability To Listen

The computer may also end up being a barrier to patient care if it diverts your doctor's attention away from what you're saying to him or her. If the doctor is more intent on filling out the appropriate boxes on the screen, he or she may miss something important you are telling him or her about your symptoms.

Contact An Attorney If You Feel That Your Treatment Was Negligent

If you feel like something went wrong with your medical care and the best answer that you seem to get is that something in your electronic medical records led to the mistake, consider contacting an attorney who handles medical malpractice claims. While technology is helpful in the medical field, it shouldn't be a substitute for critical thinking and personalized care—anything less is negligence.

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