Today, almost all medical facilities have moved to the use of electronic health records (EHRs). Ninety percent of hospitals and eighty percent of physician practices record and keep patient records electronically. An increase in EHRs has been accompanied by an increase in EHR-related medical malpractice suits.
The Doctor’s Company, the largest physician-owned malpractice insurer in the U.S., released a new study examining 66 electronic health record-related closed claims between July 2014 and Dec. 2016. These were compared with 97 EHR-related claims from a previous study that ran between Jan. 2007 and June 2014. From 2007 to 2010 there were only two EHR-related malpractice claims, but in the roughly one-and-a-half-year time-period of the second study, 66 claims were filed – a significant increase.
Researchers found that 58 percent of claims stemmed from user factors such as copying and pasting patient progress notes. Thirty-three of the claims were caused by system factors such as drug alert failures or clinical decision support alert failures. There were eight claims that alleged either more than one user or system factor, or both.
User Errors in Electronic Health Records
Keeping records electronically carries some inherent risk for the users of the system and therefore the patients being cared for by those users. “Alert fatigue” is a known problem with users of EHR systems. The software is designed to spot and alert doctors to potential drug-drug interactions in the patient’s medical records.
These alerts can be frequent and disruptive, and it is estimated that as many as two-thirds of alerts are overridden or disabled. According to The Doctor’s Company, 10 to 15 percent of electronic prescriptions contain errors, one-third of which are potentially harmful.
Copying and pasting patient history and medical information from prior visits to new ones is a common practice that has risks when used for patient progress records and physical examinations. Copying and pasting notes can obscure the new clinical information with less relevant material. It can also result in the perpetuation of incorrect or outdated patient data. Once an error has been entered into an electronic medical record, it can be quickly disseminated throughout the system and difficult to correct.
Drop down menus can be another source of errors in EHRs. They exist to facilitate data entry, but it is easy to choose the wrong field on a drop-down list, including the medication above or below the one intended.
There are many ways in which electronic health records improve patient care, but no system is error free. Mistakes in medical records have the potential to seriously harm a patient. Medical professionals have a duty to do everything possible to prevent them.
Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Advocate for Victims of Medical Negligence
If you or someone you love developed medical complications due to a diagnostic error, contact a Baltimore medical malpractice lawyer at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. For a free consultation contact us online or call 800-547-4LAW (4529).
Our offices are located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie, and Towson, allowing us to represent victims of medical malpractice in Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland, and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Parkville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.