Study indicates electronic records may lead to medical errors

Many doctors and hospitals across New York have adopted electronic record systems to improve both accuracy and efficiency. These electronic records do help health care providers provide better care to their patients. However, in some circumstances, these records can lead to medical errors.

The Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority recently released an advisory after researching over 300 events that were related to the use of default settings. An example of a default setting, which are used to make hospital information systems more efficient and standardized, would be the use of pain medication after surgery. A healthy patient would receive a preset type of pain medication, dose and delivery method determined by the hospital for use after a specific surgery.

However, using these preset default settings can lead to errors if they are used incorrectly. Common types of errors caused by default settings are giving the wrong dosage of a medication or giving it at the wrong time. Of the 300 events in the report, many of them didn't cause the patient any harm. However, in others a patient may have required additional time in the hospital.

A spokesperson for the agency that conducted the study said their hope was that this new information would help doctors, hospitals and other health care providers avoid similar mistakes in the future. However, any patient who was injured by the use of default values in electronic health records may have a cause to seek compensation from their health care provider. This would depend on many factors, including how much the medical error hurt the patient. An attorney may be able to help someone who feels they've been victimized by medical errors determine what their damages may be and how much a hospital or doctor may be to blame.

Source: LVB.com, "Study shows electronic health records can lead to errors", Stacy Wescoe, September 05, 2013

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