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EHR can lead to serious hospital errors

EHR stands for electronic health record. The system is used in at least 93 percent of the medical facilities in the country -- including many here in Illinois -- under the pretext that it will reduce the number of hospital errors that occur due to lack of communication and availability of medical records. However, a recent study has revealed that the system might actually be contributing to the number of errors that are made by medical personnel.

As the popularity of EHR has grown, so have the medical malpractice complaints in which the system plays some part. Most of the issues are from mistakes made by those making entries or from some sort of issue with the technology itself. If a doctor fails to enter the correct information, anything that follows that error could put the life of the patient in jeopardy. When a doctor does input the information correctly, others might not read it properly. This could put a patient at risk for a variety of mishaps that could prove serious or even deadly.

For instance, a doctor failed to note in the EHR that a child had been exposed to tuberculosis in a foreign country. Instead, on several occasions, he copied and pasted a note that said there was no tuberculosis exposure. The child was sent home with a diagnosis of either the flu or an insect bite, along with flu medication and antibiotics.

Two months later, the toddler suffered severe cognitive defects that were permanent. An emergency room finally diagnosed him with tuberculous meningitis. Had the child's doctor not kept copying and pasting the same comments into the EHR, he or another doctor might have realized sooner that there was a possibility that the child could have contracted the disease.

When used properly, EHR could be an invaluable tool in the medical industry. However, when hospital errors occur and an Illinois patient suffers serious injury, or dies, the patient and/or the patient's family retains the right to file a medical malpractice claim against the party or parties believed to be responsible. Successfully litigating such a claim could result in an award of damages that could help defray the financial losses incurred because of the mistake.

Source: northbaybusinessjournal.com, "Electronic health records can increase malpractice risks", July 4, 2016

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