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Is "Cutting and Pasting" Leading to Medical Errors?

“Cutting and pasting” text from one document to another makes many of our jobs much easier. However, when it comes to electronic medical records, the shortcut could lead to a serious medical mistake.

According to a 2013 study reported by Reuters, the way doctors and other healthcare professionals use software to update medical records could be putting patients at risk. Much like word processing software, it allows doctors to copy data from one medical record to another or within the same medical record.

To see how frequently this tool is used, researchers from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland looked at 2,068 patient progress reports which were created electronically by 62 residents and 11 attending physicians at a Cleveland I.C.U. The study found that 82 percent of notes from residents and 74 percent of notes from attending physicians consisted of at least 20% copied and pasted material from the patients' records

Although the researchers did not look at how copying and pasting impacted patient care, safety experts are concerned. In a case discussed by lead study author, Dr. Daryl Thornton, the medical record of a readmitted patient included so much copied and pasted information that the new doctors could not determine the original diagnosis; ultimately, they were forced to contact the doctors that initially treated the patient.

“If your communication isn't accurate, timely, complete and factual, then you really could be transmitting bad information forward that then creates this tumbling effect," said Ann Gaffey, president of Healthcare Risk and Safety Strategies, which conducted a similar study.

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