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Do electronic records increase pharmaceutical malpractice?

Although some Massachusetts residents probably believe that the nationwide conversion to electronic medical records should help to improve the quality of healthcare by making it less expensive and more efficient, a report has recently been released about a number of serious drawbacks to the switch. For example, pharmaceutical malpractice could result when some drug orders may be transferred from a hospital to a pharmacy using a different electronic application. This may result in a different drug or dose than the one that was originally ordered. In fact, the report cites an example of a mistaken electronic order for a dangerously high dose of a heart medicine that was caught just in time.

Electronic records are also susceptible to crashes. The potential for confusion and mix-ups with electronic records can be costly and even dangerous. Even the well-known Mayo Clinic has still not been able to make its electronic records systems accessible to all of its departments. In response to these threats, a panel at the National Academies of Science has recommended that an independent agency be created by the federal government to deal with patient safety issues with respect to information technology hazards.

This panel also proposed that all "hold harmless" clauses which protect software manufacturers from lawsuits be nullified as they pertain to electronic medical records. A presidential report on safety concerns is expected to be issued in Nov. 2012. The report should contain new information regarding the connections between medical professional negligence and electronic records.

All victims of medical professional negligence, including those mistakes caused by electronic records, should act swiftly to protect their rights to recovery due to strict time limits for filing suit. Damages to compensate a victim of medical malpractice can include payment of medical bills, future medical care, loss of wages and pain and suffering.

Source : The New York Times, "The Ups and Downs of Electronic Medical Records," Milt Freudenheim, Oct. 8, 2012

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