If you’ve recently visited a doctor chances are they used Electronic Health Records (EHR) to document your visit. These records make it easier for doctors, pharmacies, and medical professionals to streamline their work, secure files, and reduce medical errors.
But it’s not all smooth sailing. Although some errors have decreased, medical professionals now encounter new and different types of errors since they switched to EHR. And if an EHR error leads to patient harm, it may even be considered medical malpractice.
Electronic Health Records (EHR) are digital files that medical professionals create, send, and maintain electronically.
In the past, medical professionals maintained paper files for each patient and wrote paper orders and prescriptions by hand. They also communicated with other health entities such as pharmacies and insurance companies primarily via phone and fax. But this paper filing system had significant limitations.
These files were:
As medical care has grown more complex, healthcare providers need a way to communicate quickly with specialists, insurance companies, pharmacies, and other health entities. EHR emerged as a partial solution to this problem.
EHR has existed since the 1970s. Early iterations were expensive and not widely adopted. Electronic records continued to evolve and develop with other technology, including personal computers and the Internet. In 2009, when President Obama passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, EHR received a considerable push. This act incentivized medical professionals and companies who used EHR. Hospital groups, physicians, and insurance companies now consider EHR part of the standard of care.
Electronic health records have become indispensable in managing patients’ medical history and more.
Electronic health records can:
Imagine a doctor needing to determine the best treatment for a patient’s new symptoms. With EHR, the doctor can easily search through years of that patient’s medical history right at their fingertips. Furthermore, the software may recommend a treatment or warn the doctor if their first choice of treatment is inappropriate. EHR can alert the doctor to any potential drug interactions or allergies and help determine if insurance covers the treatment. The doctor can then send the order or prescription electronically.
When used appropriately, EHR can help patients receive the most appropriate treatment. EHR is a powerful tool for quick, hassle-free, and accurate patient care.
Healthcare professionals use EHRs in a variety of settings. These include:
While EHRs can prevent certain types of errors, they also introduce new challenges.
Doctors routinely send orders for procedures, tests, and prescriptions during treatment. Whether they order an x-ray or a course of antibiotics, they are more likely than ever to do so electronically. But, with this convenience comes the risk of EHR errors. A doctor may accidentally select the wrong test or drug from a drop-down menu, mistype instructions, or choose the wrong strength.
One critical mistake that can render patient records incorrect is choosing the wrong patient. With an increasing number of patients sharing similar names, medical professionals must take extra care to verify multiple points of identification, such as date of birth or address.
EHR errors can occur when a patient’s medical history contains inaccuracies. In fact, according to the NIH, at least half of patients reported that EHRs may contain an error.
Some examples may include:
As a patient, you may have access to your medical history through patient portals provided by physicians, labs, and pharmacies. Given the large discrepancies that often exist in EHRs, it’s more important than ever to ensure that your healthcare records are correct and notify your doctor of any errors.
EHR software offers great convenience, but it also brings new problems including:
As each year passes, EHR companies continue to improve their software. EHR errors may never disappear completely, but increasingly sophisticated software can help reduce errors while providing all the advantages of electronic medical records.
Paper and electronic health records can both lead to medical errors, but EHR errors can be unique. EHR errors sometimes occur because of the technology, not in spite of it.
Electronic health records can make medical care easier, but they can also provide valuable evidence in a malpractice lawsuit.
In addition to containing large amounts of patient data, EHRs also record metadata showcasing who viewed or edited each file and when. This data can potentially help determine whether a medical provider was negligent. It can also assist investigators determine when and how an error occurred.
Ultimately, Electronic Health Records have enormous potential to improve patient safety and reduce overall risk. As technology continues to advance, EHRs can make medical care safer, faster, and more effective.
If you have experienced an injury due to EHR errors or medical malpractice, you may be able to file a medical malpractice claim. Contact an experienced malpractice attorney at Wilson Kehoe Winingham today for a free consultation.
Medical records include exactly what you expect—a record of a patient’s health and medical history. Depending on the individual, these records could include information about…
Have you been a victim of medical malpractice? There are several steps to filing a medical malpractice claim, and an important part of the process…
When medical malpractice attorneys proceed with a case, they have two main goals in mind: getting compensation for their clients and holding healthcare providers accountable…
Let WKW put our experience to work for you. Contact us for your free case evaluation.