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Electronic Health Records Present Unique Medical Malpractice Risks That Must Be Guarded Against

Technology improvements have obviously affected how medical care is provided throughout the world. Not only have advances allowed new treatments, but they have also change the way basic business within the medical community is done. This is perhaps evidenced most clearly in the recent push to have as many medical providers as possible switch over to electronic medical records. There is a hope that moving over to an electronic system, as opposed to the traditional pen and paper system, will provide more safeguards to prevent human error from creeping in and leading to a medical error.

However, our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys know that while a shift to these records may be an important long-term way to lower the overall error levels, they are simply one piece in the puzzle-they will not solve every record-keeping problem. In fact, a new study released by a health information technology research firm and reported by Information Week revealed that the rapid push to use electronic health records may actually increase instances of medical malpractice in some areas and in the short-term. The study’s authors suggest that the one of the main problems are the potential for developers and medical personnel to rush the process in an effort to implement electronic records too quickly. They suggest that this may result in cut corners on the part of those working on the software itself and on inadequate training of those using the new system.

Contrary to the belief of some, electronic health record systems do not actually replace all older components of the record keeping process. One of the main benefits of the system is that it will automatically build in certain safeguards and warn medical professionals when one of those safeguards is triggered-such as if a patient has an allergy to a certain medication that is being prescribed. These automated safeguards have the potential to prevent errors that otherwise may have had serious consequences. However, the safeguards are not comprehensive or fool-proof. The researchers involved in this latest study explain that the agency working closely on these issues-the Office of the National Coordinator or Health Information Technology-does not require certain safeguards to be part of the system. For example, most electronic record keeping systems do not check drug orders against laboratory results or take family history and social concerns into account.

Earlier this year our Chicago malpractice lawyers reported on similar concerns about medical errors that were still made even with use of these electronic records. For one thing, human input is still required. So if an aide forgets a decimal point or makes another typographical error, then the possibility for harm to the patient still exists. It will remain important for all medical providers to continue working with the utmost care, and not fall into a safe sense of security, assuming that any problems will be caught by the electronic monitoring system. While this medical record keeping advance has many benefits, it is not without risks. All patients deserve to have those risks taken into account by their caregivers.

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