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Electronic Health Records Are Far From Perfect

Electronic health records (EHR) are designed to cut down on medical errors in San Diego hospitals. However, they are far from perfect.

In fact, the ECRI Institute PSO, a patient safety organization, recently demonstrated that EHRs can often do more harm than good. In its latest report, the institute documented 171 health information technology-related incidents over a nine-week study period.

As reported by American Medical News, the medical errors associated with EHRs are not always benign. In one incident, a surgeon was unable to electronically access a patient’s radiology study in the operating room, which extended the patient’s time under anesthesia while OR staff worked to bring up the record.

Overall, eight of the EHR incidents reported resulted in patient harm. Even more alarming, three may have contributed to patient deaths.

The errors were also attributable to a number of factors, including:

  • General malfunctions, including error messages or faulty data entry fields, were responsible for 29 percent of the incidents.
  • An additional 25 percent the EHR problems were attributed to data output problems, such as ordering the wrong medication because the system retrieved the wrong patient record.
  • Twenty-four percent of incidents were caused by data-input mistakes, such as entering an incorrect patient identification number.
  • Finally, the remaining errors were linked to data-transfer failures, including one incident where a physician’s order to stop a medication failed to reach the pharmacy system.

Given the potential problems, the ECRI Institute PSO recommends that hospitals and clinics perform extensive testing before implementing a new electronic system in patient care. It also encourages the incorporation of programs designed to prevent the errors detailed in the report.

If you or someone you love has suffered from a medical error, don’t hesitate to contact a San Diego medical malpractice attorney at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a free consultation.