The advent of new technology has revolutionized virtually every facet of our lives. We see changes in business operations, social communication, and even in the way we receive medical care. In recent years, hospitals, emergency rooms, and doctors' offices across the country have begun utilizing new technology to replace handwritten patient records with a new tool called electronic medical records (EMRs). Although EMRs are meant to improve the way medical professionals provide care, you should be aware of the fact that EMRs may be a source of harm to patients.
A recent Wall Street Journal report written by John Sotos, MD, puts the spotlight on one of the examples of an EMR error causing harm to a patient. Dr. Sotos’ report describes the true story of a patient whose IV fluid orders were executed incorrectly three times in three days, forcing her to use a bedpan every 20 minutes, which resulted in brisk bleeding due to the blood thinners she was on. Dr. Sotos says the blame for these inaccuracies falls on the shoulders of EMRs. Documenting urination, a task that used to take mere seconds, is now complicated by several steps that only serve to obscure the issue at hand: the facts of the patient’s case.
The example reported on the Wall Street Journal’s website is not the only instance of inaccuracies caused by electronic medical records. Medical errors are almost built into the system because of the sheer amount of data required to be entered, even if the manner of entry is the seemingly simple “point and click.”
In a recent case, I spoke to an emergency room physician about the effort necessary to fill in the emergency room’s EMRs for a given patient. We discussed the fact that most emergency room visits focus on a specific problem. Nonetheless, the EMR required the physician, if they were to complete the form properly, to fill out thirty-five (35) pages of questions that were, in this particular circumstance, almost entirely irrelevant. The doctor freely admitted in his testimony that he had not actually filled them out based on questioning the patient, as is needed, but had instead defaulted to a negative response for every question.
What was particularly troubling about the matter was that, as a result of the doctor’s refusal to complete reams of irrelevant paperwork, his negative responses on the EMR came into play in subsequent medical care. In other words, medical records were being filled out inaccurately to satisfy a bureaucratic requirement and these inaccurate forms were then relied on by other medical providers. Again, to his credit, the doctor freely admitted that the record was likely inaccurate.
It is equally likely that you can multiply this example many times in our current environment.
Who can help?
It is evident that inaccuracies in patient care caused by EMRs are serious and potentially harmful. If you or a loved one has been injured due to EMRs, please contact me. We will review your case. To learn more about me or Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria’s Medical Malpractice department, please click on the following links.
Laraine Kelley Biography
Medical Malpractice Practice Group
This article does not purport to give legal advice and is for informational purposes only.