Electronic Health Records Indicate a Rise in Medical Malpractice

Electronic health care records (EHRs) are under scrutiny because of increasing concern that medical malpractice is on the rise as their use becomes more widespread.

Over a period of time, the FederalGovernment has provided Medicare cash incentives to medical centers and hospitals if they convert to EHRs, as a way of monitoring and tracking patient information with a particular emphasis on their medical treatment. Health providers have responded to the government incentives and they are now more commonly in use throughout St. Louis and across the country. At this point in time, approximately 100,000 providers make use of EHRs in their management of patient data.

EHR Use Linked to Medical Malpractice

Reports are now indicating that this rapid transformation of medical records to EHR has led to an increase in medical malpractice incidents which are seemingly connected to or caused by patient data being stored electronically in a computerized system. Some specific examples of mistakes include physicians inadvertently prescribing the incorrect medication because of the small font size projected on the computer screen, even time lapses in treatment due to lost or out-of-date test results, and incorrect diagnosis.

The apparent solution to this as highlighted by those groups who monitor patient safety is for the government to oversee EHRs through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. There hasn’t yet been any move by the government to act on this suggestion, but it quite recently warned medical providers and those software companies who have created and manage the EHRs to either design a system for the reporting of any EHR-related problems, or alternatively the government will deal with and monitor them.

Under the government’s proposals, those who are using this software have been asked to gather and evaluate any examples that have indicated that harm has actually been inflicted on patients. In addition, they have been asked if there are any circumstances where the use of the EHRs could potentially harm a patient, either potential or actual, as a result of the medical provider’s use of EHRs. The government has also shown some concern that software companies have been insisting that medical providers sign contracts so that they cannot be made liable if the software fails to function up to expectations.

Up to the end of 2012, the Pennsylvania’s Patient Safety Authority was the only state funded agency that was gathering information on patient safety with the use of EHRs. One of the biggest studies they conducted revealed that out of 3099 HER events, it was discovered that 10 percent of them could have led to patient harm, while 16 of the events did cause real injury to a patient.

The Errors Identified Were Related to:

  • Data entered into incorrect fields
  • Incorrect interpretation of information displayed
  • Entering of wrong medication
  • Ignoring an allergy
  • Not entering lab results
  • Not entering a patient’s condition
  • Not entering a procedure performed on a patient

These revelations are no doubt only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to patient safety under EHRs. So far only one state has made an attempt to reveal inconsistencies and errors in their use. So far no fatalities have been recorded but with such a small amount of data scrutinized there could be cases of wrongful death that have not revealed themselves.

Medical Malpractice is Rife Amongst Healthcare Providers

Medical malpractice is generally defined as what happens when a physician, surgeon or dentist or other medical professional, fails to act or inappropriately act when it comes to patient diagnosis or treatment. This action may result in a wrongful death or a serious injury. It doesn’t take long for a misdiagnosis, a delayed diagnosis, a surgical error, a medication mistake and prescription error to soon reveal itself when the patient either dies or is subject to serious illness.

A recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association estimated that more than 225,000 patients lose their lives annually due to a doctor or physician’s diagnosis or treatment. If the patient’s family is able to identify the actual cause of the death then they have grounds to file a claim for damages for wrongful death from the person who caused the death.

In Missouri, any wrongful death action is directed through a specific statute and has to be
followed as such. This is particularly relevant when it comes to who has the right to put in a damages claim. The spouse, the children and the parents of the deceased are deemed as equal when it comes to any recovery. Any siblings do not have the same priority as the closest family members.

The damages claim can include economic loss that has resulted because the wrongful death has led to loss of income and support for the family, as well as any medical expenses paid out before the death occurred. There is also non-economic loss which covers the emotional pain and loss of companionship as a result of the wrongful death. Funeral expenses can also be included in any wrongful death claim.

Overall, anyone contemplating filing a damages claim due to medical malpractice when EHRs were used should seriously consider making use of the services of an experienced wrongful death lawyer who can assess eligibility for a damages claim. If these services are not used then there is a chance that the insurer of the person at fault will offer a token payment which will never cover the full extent of the loss. More importantly, the mistake will not be corrected and future patients will be at risk.

It is important that systems that are being incorporated into patient care by health care providers are sufficient to ensure that top medical care is provided to all. If cases of wrongful death are not pursued when this system fails, there can be no surety that our lives are protected when any of us are in need of medical care. Setting a precedent by submitting a wrongful death claim not only highlights the inadequacies of the EHR system, but also ensures that our loved one did not die needlessly. If you have been injured or a loved one killed through the use of electronic medical records, contact an experienced Missouri medical malpractice lawyer today.

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