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Electronic health records can cause medical errors


Posted on behalf of Michael D'Amico of D'Amico & Pettinicchi, LLC on Sep 10, 2013 in Doctor Errors

Many health care providers in Connecticut and across the country have embraced technology and adopted electronic systems for their records. While electronic health records often increase efficiency and accuracy in health care, they can still lead to errors when caring for patients. A recent study released by the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority illuminated one possible issue with these systems.

The authority released an advisory after it investigated over 300 events caused by using default settings in health records. Default settings are used to help add efficiency and standardization to the information systems used by hospitals. An example of default values can be seen in a situation in which a healthy patient who has just had surgery may be prescribed a certain pain medication, dose and delivery type that has been preset by the hospital for use after the specific surgery they just had. If not used correctly, these defaults can cause harm to patients.

Giving the wrong dose of the medication or giving the medication to the patient at the wrong time are common errors that occur due to default settings. A spokesperson for the authority said that not all of the 300 or so events caused harm to the patients; in some cases, there was only the potential for harm, and in others, patients may have stayed in the hospital longer because of the error.

The spokesperson also said that the report was meant to help health care providers avoid similar mistakes in the future. The story doesn't say if any patients were seriously injured as a result of these mistakes. However, any patients who have been injured due to the use of default values or other types of doctor errors may be eligible for compensation. A personal injury lawyer could potentially investigate a hospital's records in order to build a strong claim.

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