The majority of medical professionals have made the switch from paper medical records to electronic filing systems. Electronic health records (EHRs) provide some obvious advantages over paper records. For instance, they make pulling up and finding patient records easy and efficient for medical staff, ensure legibility of records and make the practice of sharing records with collaborating physicians simple. However, the switch to paperless medical records can also present new opportunities for medical malpractice.
It is important to remember that doctors keep medical records for a good reason. A patient’s medical records contain vital information regarding a person’s history of illnesses, his or her family medical history, any allergies a person might have, and medications they are taking or have taken in the past.
If the information included in a patient’s file is inaccurate or incomplete, the result can be faulty diagnoses, or dangerous errors in prescriptions of medications.
The ability to easily share medical records with all treating physicians decreases the risk of conflicting prescriptions or failed communication between physicians who are concurrently treating the same patient. Electronic records also ensure that all medical practitioners viewing the records will be able to read them rather than having to decipher various different people’s handwriting. Other benefits include the ability to alert practitioners to the patient’s need for a routine check-up or screening, keeping track of a patient’s reactions to prescribed medications, preventing the patient from wasting time filling out redundant forms, and making it easy for patients to take their records with them wherever they go.
All of these benefits can reduce the risk of errors caused by a lack of information and improve the level of care for a patient, making EHRs beneficial to both medical providers and patients alike.
EHRs cannot solve all of the problems with medical records. Whether a practitioner handwrites or types, he or she can still make mistakes in filling in information. On top of that, technical errors are also possible, and can create new problems as well.
Incorrect health records contribute to the status of medical mistakes as third among causes of death in the United States. Misdiagnoses, or undiagnosed conditions, mistakes involving the performance of the wrong surgical procedure, and errors in dosage or administration of prescriptions all contribute to the roughly 250,000 Americans that die as the result of medical errors every year. Faulty medical records, now mostly in electronic form, contribute to these serious mistakes.
There are numerous ways in which problems with EHRs have led to injuries and malpractice claims. Some of the more common ways problems arise include an inattention to electronically uploaded lab reports or X-rays by physicians, data entry errors causing the wrong prescription medication or the wrong dosage being administered to patients, inaccurate voice recognition software leaving the wrong information, the addition of incorrect information as the result of using copy and paste to add old information to a new chart, and the misuse of computer systems such as prompts, or drop down menus.
Additional problems with EHRs can occur in the billing department, as many EHR systems are designed to handle charges and billing.
Another issue that concerns some patients is about the privacy of EHRs. While medical providers are required to keep patients’ records private, the use of EHRs does create a risk of hacking.
You should remember that your medical records are yours, and that if you request them from a medical provider, they are compelled to give them to you, even if you are involved in a dispute with them, or owe the facility money.
In the unfortunate event that you or a family member have suffered as the result of a medical error or EHR mistake, you should contact an attorney to seek compensation for your injuries.
If you or someone you love believes they may be the victim of medical negligence, the Long Island Medical Malpractice attorneys at the Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP can help. They will review your situation and determine if you have a viable case, free of charge. Call today for a free consultation at 516-358-6900.