Last week we reported on an alarming incident out of Australia involving mass manipulation of electronic health records. The Chicago medical malpractice attorneys at our firm appreciate that the case is indicative of a widespread potential problem with these records. Obviously shifting away from paper records comes with many benefits. Access to documents is made immensely easier across multiple platforms and checks can be built-in to catch many potential problems, like medication conflicts and similar risks.
However, at the same time, with these benefits come a range of risks. Those were borne out clearly in the Australian case where an executive admitted to manipulating thousands of records involving patient wait times and treatment times. The purpose of the manipulation was to skew publicly-reported figures about hospital performance. Similar wrongdoing would have been virtually impossible with paper records, because each of the thousands would need physical manipulation. With electronic records, the wrongdoer could alter the documents with a few clicks from anywhere.
Medical malpractice lawyers understand the implications. While this particular case involves changes to alter hospital-wide records, what’s to say that the same thing won’t occur to change individual records of a patient who fell victim to a medical error? Legal cases seeking compensation and accountability often hinge of the accurate, honest information presented in a patient’s record. Many examples already exists of paper records being changed to make care seem appropriate that was not. The risk may be even stronger with electronic records.
It is unclear exactly how safeguards will be put in place to minimize the risk of alteration of electronic records Limiting access to the records and providing layers of oversight is likely part of the answer. In addition, it will be important for patients to access their own data and act quickly if they notice any problems. Of course this will not only deter illegal manipulation but, more importantly, it may bolster overall patient safety.
With the goal of encouraging patient access to their electronic health data, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information is sponsoring a program entitled the “What’s in Your Health Record?” video challenge. More information the program can be found HERE.
The contest comes with cash prizes for those who create a short video explaining how patients can access and verify their health records electronically.
The contest urges patients to submit videos which share a personal story of accessing one’s records and how doing so improved their overall care.
In announcing the contest the office’s website notes that “Patients and their families have a legal right to see and get a copy of their health record from most doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers, such as pharmacies and nursing homes, as well as from their health plans.”
Each Chicago medical malpractice attorney at our firm will be following the developments of these electronic records with interest. If at any time you believe you or a loved one received inadequate care due to record problems (or any other reason), consider getting in touch with a legal professional to learn more.
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