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Idaho Patients Can Be Endangered By Poor Designs in Electronic Record-keeping

Idaho medical malpractice attorneyMany healthcare providers now rely on electronic medical records to make their practices more efficient. While electronic record-keeping systems can reduce the time and expense associated with the administration of a healthcare practice, they can also expose patients to dangerous medical errors. Poorly designed programs make it especially difficult for providers to accurately access and maintain patient data. This can result in preventable medical errors.

Doctors, surgeons, and other healthcare providers who negligently rely on inaccurate electronic record-keeping systems can be held liable for medical malpractice.

The Specific Problems With Electronic Record-keeping

A study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association reviewed nearly two million cases of safety hazard reports from healthcare providers in the Mid-Atlantic region. A total of 557 of these cases were reported to have put a patient in danger as the result of electronic record-keeping. While this may seem to be a small proportion of the overall safety hazards, it is an entirely avoidable problem. This is why it is important for healthcare providers and administrators to take steps to protect patients from unnecessary medical errors.

But what, exactly, are the problems with electronic record-keeping? One investigator notes that many clinicians find software to be cumbersome and difficult to operate correctly. Programs that are not user-friendly can increase the chances of errors. For example, if it is difficult to enter a patient’s medication allergies into a software program, it may not be done correctly, and the software will be unable to alert a doctor to the patient’s allergy before the doctor prescribes a dangerous medication.

Even user-friendly programs may have dangerously vague designs. The Verge reported on one record-keeping program that allowed a pediatrician to enter a child’s weight in either pounds or kilograms. This ambiguity could lead to a child accidentally receiving a dangerous overdose of prescribed medication.

How to Safely Use Electronic Healthcare Records

The more oversight there is in a system, the more likely it is that errors will be caught in time to prevent harm to a patient. It is therefore important for doctors and their staff to carefully monitor their own use of electronic healthcare records. More training and practice can help users understand a software program better and use it more accurately. It is also important to have a “second set of eyes” on electronic records. Doctors and support staff should check one another’s work to identify errors before they harm a patient.

Patients, too, can take steps to prevent errors in their own medical records. Many healthcare providers now maintain electronic records which are available to patients through mobile apps. This allows a patient to see his or her own records anytime from the convenience of a smartphone. A simple review of basic health information can help patients identify errors in their medications, medical history, and other important points of information.

Ultimately, however, a healthcare provider has a duty of care to his or her patients. Doctors who allow errors in electronic record-keeping to harm their patients can be held liable for medical malpractice. An Idaho medical malpractice attorney can help patients prove that electronic record-keeping was responsible for a medical error and address other complicated legal issues surrounding new and developing technologies.

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