The Looming Role of Electronic Prescriptions

Technology changes everything. The past one hundred years has seen a staggering arc of tech advances which has changed virtually every aspect of human life in one way or another. This fact is so clear that its a cliche to repeat it. Yet, it is important not to forget that the changes are not finished. In fact, it is perhaps most apt to say that we are now in a state of perpetual change–advances come on a rolling basis and we must adapt all the time.

Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys know that is certainly true when it comes to healthcare. The most obvious example of this is in actual treatment and prevention options. Doctors are able to treat so much more than in the past, a large part of the reason that life expectancy rates continue to rise. This affects malpractice lawsuits in that it changes what constitutes “reasonable” care in terms of medical negligence. Treatment protocols that were reasonable in 1950 (or even 1990) may no longer be reasonable today. Put another way, a course of conduct might constitute medical malpractice today that would not have been negligent even a few years ago.

Beyond treatment changes, however, technology advances have also changed the administration of so many jobs, including in the healthcare industry. That is manifesting itself in a high-profile way recently with the switch to electronic records. Each Illinois medical malpractice lawyer at our firm understands the way that this shift might affect patient care in big ways–both good and bad.

For example, a recent Med City News story discussed the change to electronic medical prescriptions. The move seems like common sense, considering paper records are becoming obsolete in so many settings. Not only are paper records inefficient, but they might come with increased errors which might be preventable with more technology safeguards in place. The story noted how nearly 100,000 patients continue to die each year as a result of medical malpractice. Everything possible should be explored to cut down that number.

Electronic prescriptions may help in that regard. The story notes that about 7,000 deaths are connected each year to medication errors. E-prescriptions may improve on that unimpressive figure. One pharmacologist quoted in the story argues “It’s unfortunate but most of the medication errors are attributable to illegibility of the prescription note or misspellings on the part of the provider.”

On that note, it seems obvious that electronic prescription can have a huge impact on patient safety. There is no excuse for misread handwriting on paper records resulting in mistakes–often fatal. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services the switch is almost fully complete as 97% of all chain pharmacies are connected to the e-prescribing system.

A recent study was conducted to gauge the effect of electronic subscriptions. Twelve practices were observed–half using old and half using new methods. The results were encouraging. Electronic prescriptions reduced errors from an average of 42.5 per 100 to 6.6 per 100. Conversely, paper record errors increased slightly over the study time.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

New Contest Seeks to Spur Patient Interest in Electronic Health Records

Emerging Issue: Manipulation of Electronic Health Records

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