Do Electronic Records Lead to More Medical Mistakes?
There's no doubt that the increase in electronic record keeping in medicine has had many advantages for doctors and patients alike. Care providers can update and share records quickly and efficiently, often leading to better care for patients. Where it once would have taken days or weeks to get bulky records or X-rays copied and transferred, it can now be done in seconds. Typed notes mean that patients will not receive the wrong treatment because a nurse could not read a doctor's scrawl. And there is less danger of a provider prescribing treatment based on a paper record that is not up to date.
Many people have worried, though, that this seeming boon has had a downside. Do electronic records lead to more medical mistakes than they prevent? Does having information in such a readily transmissible form mean that it can more easily fall into the wrong hands? And what do you do if your doctor's electronic record keeping led to a mistake in your treatment?
The Risks of Electronic Health Records (EHR)
While electronic health records (EHR) can have advantages, they can also pose a number of risks you might not have expected. Treatment errors based on EHR problems are being cited in an increasing number of medical malpractice lawsuits.
Have you ever ordered a piece of clothing online, but inadvertently selected the wrong color or size from the pull-down menu? That's an annoying inconvenience, to be sure, but only that—an inconvenience. If a nurse makes an error in selecting an option from a pull-down menu while taking your health history and selects, say, "No Known Medication Allergies" instead of "Allergic to Penicillin," that mistake could be life-threatening.
And, of course, as with any typed communication, typographical errors can happen, often leading to treatment or medication errors. The use of voice recognition software can also pose risks, particularly if the speaker is unclear or the software drops an essential word in transcribing the speech.
The use of EHRs also means that it may be easier to "correct" a medical record to cover up a mistake by a doctor, nurse, or other health care provider. Whereas with a handwritten medical chart, it would be obvious if a note was changed or added later, alterations may not be as easily detected with an EHR, allowing negligent providers to cover their tracks more easily. Many medical malpractice cases have also noted a discrepancy between printed copies of EHRs provided by patients and the information doctors and nurses have available on their screens, including alarms, prompts, and menu options.
In addition to these dangers, the ease of transmission that facilitates sharing of EHRS between medical providers also means that there is a risk of transmission to the wrong party, leading to a breach of the patient's confidentiality.
What to Do if You Were Harmed by an Electronic Health Record Error
It may not be instantly apparent to you that your EHR is implicated in a surgical error, emergency room error, or other medical negligence that injured you. However, if you have an electronic medical record, you should definitely have an experienced Portland medical malpractice attorney review it for any red flags or inconsistencies with what you have experienced.
If you were harmed by medical malpractice in which an EHR played a part, you have only a limited time to file a claim. An ethical, experienced malpractice attorney will be able to assess the strengths and weaknesses of your case and will never encourage you to pursue a case if it does not appear to have merit. If you'd like to learn more your options, we invite you to contact Huegli Fraser PC for a free, confidential initial consultation. We look forward to answering your questions.
The information in this blog post is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. You should not make a decision whether or not to contact a qualified medical malpractice attorney based upon the information in this blog post. No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. If you require legal advice, please consult with a competent medical malpractice attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.