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How Electronic Health Records Can Put Patients in Danger

Think back to your last medical appointment.

Was your doctor typing away at their computer? Did you feel like they were rushed or distracted? Were they more focused on filling in the digital forms than they were on your symptoms?

Before you knew it, your time was up and they hurried off to see the next patient.

Maybe you picked a bad doctor. Or maybe it wasn’t their fault.

The Dark Side of Electronic Health Records

The growth of electronic health records has had many benefits for patients and doctors, but it also has a darker side.

Many doctors and medical professionals feel the amount of work that goes into updating electronic health records contributes to burnout and prevents them from interacting with and focusing on their patients. Some say they’ve become glorified data entry specialists, and one study found doctors spent more than half of an 11.4-hour workday on electronic health records.

On top of that, many widely used electronic health record systems are confusing and prone to errors and malfunctions.

In a perfect world, electronic health records would improve the experience for both patients and medical professionals by:

  • Making it easy to access your own medical records on smartphones or other devices
  • Allowing doctors to seamlessly share their patients’ records with other providers
  • Identifying trends by automatically analyzing records and test results
  • Reducing the amount of duplicate or unnecessary testing

Unfortunately, the current system is broken and putting patients in danger every day. Read on to learn about the serious patient safety risks linked to electronic health records.

Risks of Electronic Health Records (EHRs)

Error-prone designs

Even the most tech-savvy doctors and medical professionals find themselves puzzled by the interfaces and menus of many electronic health record programs, leading to stress and poor user experiences.

Medication names and procedure orders vary from system to system, and the huge amount of data in each patient’s record can bury the information doctors need to make diagnosis and treatment decisions.

Mixed up records

From incorrect medical histories to overlooked billing issues, a recent survey found one in five patients had an error in their electronic medical records or those of a family member.

Lab results can go unnoticed, leading to delayed diagnosis and treatment, and some patients have even discovered their medical record is linked to an entirely different person.

These types of errors – both human and computer – lead to inconvenience in minor cases and death or serious injury in the worst. Learn what you can do to help avoid or correct mistakes in your personal medical records.

Dangerous drug orders

Confusing and lengthy menus make it easy for doctors to select the wrong option when ordering a medication, and the systems sometimes fail to flag dangerous or deadly combinations.

Another common problem involves mixing up entries for a patient’s height and weight – many times in cases of children – leading to overdoses and other complications.

When a system requires dozens of clicks to order an over-the-counter medication, errors are bound to happen.

Alert fatigue

According to an Oregon Health & Science University study, thousands of passive alerts are received throughout a single shift in the ICU.

Medical professionals become so desensitized to the alerts and overloaded by false alarms that they sometimes miss critical ones

Information blocking

Electronic health records were intended to make accessing and sharing important information easier for both patients and their doctors. Unfortunately, this hasn’t been the case.

Hospitals and medical centers often throw up roadblocks when patients or other providers try to access medical records – sometimes to hide mistakes or malpractice.

Electronic health record systems from different vendors don’t usually work well together, which can create confusion or barriers when doctors try to share a patient’s records with specialists or other providers.

When it comes to problems with the electronic health record systems themselves, gag clauses and the lack of a central error reporting database keep the concerns from reaching those with the power to make changes to protect patients.

Do you think a mistake related to your electronic health record caused your delayed diagnosis or other injuries? An experienced medical malpractice attorney can help you understand your legal options.