Many hospitals have changed their recordkeeping procedures to one of many digitized systems. If you need to visit the emergency room, electronic records should allow the physicians and nurses to provide you with faster, more efficient treatment.

Unfortunately, the transition to a digitized system comes with the potential for mistakes that are new and different, some serious enough to cause harm to patients.

Issues with electronic health records

The federal stimulus program of 2009 gave financial incentives to hospitals that initiated an upgrade to an electronic health records system. The major benefit for physicians is the digital link to patients’ hospital information. However, in an emergency room environment, the pace is much more hectic than it is in the rest of the hospital. Patients with minor problems sometimes wait a long time for attention while doctors and nurses rush to treat critically ill or injured patients. In this busy, often crowded environment, problems can develop with the EHR system. It is not difficult for a member of the ER staff to misread a computer display or inadvertently input information on the wrong medical record.

EHR-related problems may affect patients

Key patient information can go missing from your electronic health record. A diagnosis meant for a different patient can cause a disastrous mix-up in medications. If medical professionals do not order the appropriate diagnostic tests because of an error made to your electronic records, the ER staff might even release you when, in fact, they should admit you to the hospital.

Headed for medical malpractice

While training on any new electronic system is comprehensive and errors are not the norm, they can and do occur. They may result in serious problems, from a heart attack to a severe reaction from a mistakenly prescribed medication. The point is that errors in the emergency room, including those that relate to digital recordkeeping, are a form of medical malpractice, and they pose potential harm to patients.