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Medical Professionals Must Guard Against Potential Electronic Record Errors

The debate continues over the ultimate effects of a transition to electronic health records. Last week the Digital Journal published another story that weighed the pros and the cons of the transition. Our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers understand the concerns that are being raised. We also appreciate that the long-term benefits of the shift cannot be forgotten. However, no matter what, patients must remain vigilant about how the records shift might apply to their care, particularly at the outset, to ensure that they do not fall victim to medical malpractice. In the broadest sense it seems obvious that our medical records should shift toward electronic formats. After all, we live in an age of technological marvels, and so many aspects of our lives have shifted to computers and the internet. It seems natural that records concerning that which is most important to us—our health—should similarly take advantage of the benefits of cutting edge technology. In theory, our medical malpractice lawyers believe that quick submission of information and the ability to electronically check for potential problems (such as medicine prescriptions and allergies) can pay huge safety dividends for patients. Paper files—which still constitute the majority of medical records—have the potential to include incomplete or inaccurate information. Information can be mislabeled, misfield, be written illegibly, or lost. Potentially serious errors can result because of those problems.Electronic records will hopefully eliminate some of those risks. However, this shift away from paper records does not come without risk. There remain challenges to the development of certain software plans that are working to compile patient information. Converting the data to electronic forms can be time consuming. It also is a delicate process requiring doctors to learn proper coding and enter those codes to correspond to certain ailments and treatment plans. Failure to enter the data properly can lead to medical malpractice when patients are harmed as a result. Some are also concerned about the “overload” effect. Electronic health records systems can be set up to create alerts when certain triggers are met or issues are raised—thing like the expiring of a prescription. However, these alerts can lead to more problems. For example, there is a risk that when an alert is triggered doctors may act immediately with our checking in on a patients overall progress. If a prescription is filled immediately without checking it may lead to problems. Another issue is the effect on record access from potential computer network problems. Obviously the electronic data is only as good as the access to the data over a computer network. However, those networks can go awry. There may be outages which could leave doctors without access to patient records. It takes little imagination to understand how dangerous it could be for there not to be access to these records in certain situations where time is of the essence. There are also privacy concerns, because access to the records could fall into various hands if the network access is compromised. It goes without saying that all patients should remain abreast of these risks and to take action if they feel their care may have been compromised. See Our Related Blog Posts:New Data Reveals Prevalence of Hospital ErrorsElectronic Records May Have Effect on Malpractice Lawsuits