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Electronic Health Records: Helping or Hurting Patient Safety?

When Kansas City residents think of serious medical mistakes, images of surgical errors or failures to treat infection might come to mind. However, medical negligence may also involve medical records. If a patient’s medical record is filled-out incorrectly, for instance, another doctor may not be aware of certain conditions or medications and serious harm to the patient could result.

In today’s digital age, electronic health records are widely utilized as an alternative to paper records. However, concerns have arisen now that countless healthcare providers are reliant on EHR systems. For example, some systems are designed poorly and can’t account for certain contingencies. Most of the time this doesn’t pose a threat to patient safety, but there are times when patients have been harmed. An EHR system might omit relevant alerts or there may be inherent design flaws that make effective communication difficult between professionals.

In addition to technology-related issues, there is also a human error to worry about. Even something as simple as a data entry error or a copy-and-paste attempt that didn’t go through can have an adverse effect on patient safety. In addition, because EHRs can generally hold much more data than paper records can, there is potentially a greater chance that a small yet vital piece of data can go overlooked.

EHRs may actually be altering certain aspects of medical malpractice litigation. Since doctors using EHRs can access more clinical information, there may be new “duties to act” that increase a professional’s liability. Moreover, some clinical guidelines are entered into EHRs not by doctors but by programmers. As a result, the standards of care for the profession might be changed and these standards are used as the basis for many malpractice suits.

A doctor error can have serious repercussions on the health and well-being of any patient. Whether mistakes are due to a physician’s negligence or a flawed system, a Kansas City malpractice attorney can assist a victim in holding accountable those who have caused harm.

Source: FierceEMR.com, “Medical malpractice: How EHRs are changing the game,” Marla Durben Hirsch, May 27, 2015