Cranwell & Moore P.L.C., Attorneys at Law

Is technology actually increasing the chance of medical errors?

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When treating patients, doctors and other healthcare providers across the country, including Virginia, generally rely on medical information provided by patients and obtained by diagnostic testing. Now the overwhelming majority of data are retained by electronic health record systems. This information is used to track and determine treatment and provide periodic alerts and advice about a particular patient's condition or needs.

The purpose of EHRs is to make health care more efficient and less expensive. Reports suggest, however, that flaws in EHR systems can lead to confusion when it comes to providing treatment to patients. As a result, EHR systems may actually be increasing the chance that medical errors will occur. Some experts have pointed out that these errors are commonly mentioned now in medical malpractice claims across the country.

In 2009, the federal government provided incentives for EHRs and predicted they would improve patient safety by making records easily accessible. The results have produced quite the opposite, with more medical malpractice lawsuits now being filed that involve EHR-related matters. Only one percent of settled medical malpractice lawsuits were EHR-related between 2007 and 2013, but the number apparently doubled in 2014. A medical malpractice case can take five to six years to conclude, however, so the numbers may be somewhat misleading even if accurate.

All patients should understand that although these records are meant to help provide them with better and more effective treatment, they may also be creating new complications. Any patient who believes that electronic health records themselves contained incorrect information that led to poor or ineffective treatment or otherwise produced complications should makes sure to understand their legal options. All medical treatment should be based on accurate and relevant information available to physicians and medical facilities in a timely manner.

Source: CheatSheet.com, "Do Flaws in Technology Make Medicine Less Safe?," Jess Bolluyt, May 23, 2015

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