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Electronic Health Records Linked To Potential Patient Harm

By: Cohen, Placitella & Roth @ Jul 30, 2018

When healthcare professionals began using electronic health record (EHR) systems, many patient safety advocates hoped that these systems would help to reduce the rate of medical errors and patient injuries since they could help to cut out human error in patient recordkeeping. Indeed, according to a report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), certain forms of technology in the healthcare setting have been shown to improve patient safety. However, according to a recent report from Medscape Medical News, EHRs—or certain aspects of EHR systems—actually “may be linked to potential patient harm.” This information was reported in a recent study in the journal JAMA. What should Philadelphia patients know about EHRs and the potential for filing a medical malpractice claim?

Patient Safety Reports Highlight Issues with EHR Systems

The researchers who conducted the study explored patient safety reports gathered by the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority database for a period of approximately three years. Most of these records are written by nurses, and they describe such information as:

  • Safety event itself (or, to put it another way, the adverse event or medical error);
  • Effect of the event on the patient;
  • Contributing factors; and
  • Whether patient required additional healthcare services as a result of the safety event.

What did the researchers determine? In looking at more than 1.7 million safety events that occurred, nearly 2000 of them—or 0.11 percent—cited an EHR vendor as a possible contributing factor. In 0.03 percent of the safety events described, the report “explicitly suggest[ed]” that the EHR system was a contributing factor in the patient harm. Of the latter, 557 incidents fell into this group. Those 557 events were then divided further into categories that addressed whether the safety event resulted in additional monitoring to prevent harm, temporary harm, permanent harm, and “could have required intervention to save a life or could have resulted in death.”

What Are the Possible Problems with EHR Systems?

When a healthcare provider uses an EHR system and the EHRs are potentially linked to a safety event, what is wrong with the EHR? The study cites the following as the most common problems with EHR systems:

  • Data entry (27 percent of all events);
  • Alerting (22 percent of all events);
  • Interoperability (18 percent of all events);
  • Visual display (9 percent of all events);
  • Information accessibility (9 percent of all events);
  • System automation or default settings (8 percent of all events); and
  • Workflow support (7 percent of all events).

When did most of these errors occur? For most patient safety events, the EHR problems happened when a healthcare provider was placing an order (about 38 percent), administering medication (about 37 percent), reviewing a patient’s results (16 percent); and documenting information in the patient record (9 percent). The authors of the study indicate that the numbers reported here may be low estimates, and that the number of safety events tied to EHR systems could be significantly higher.

Learn More About Electronic Health Record Liability Today from a Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Lawyer

Why are EHR systems resulting in patient safety concerns? In general, the systems themselves can have glitches, but human error can still play a significant role as healthcare providers learn to operate these systems. If you were injured due to a medical error, a Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyer can help. Contact Cohen, Placitella & Roth today.

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