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The threats posed by electronic health records in pediatrics

Technology has improved many aspects of the various fields of medicine nationwide, including in Massachusetts. However, system errors and operator mistakes can lead to medical malpractice claims. Following an assessment of electronic health record systems in pediatrics, several areas of concern arose.

While EHR can assist in achieving better health care at lower costs, identification of weaknesses and potential errors in the various systems is essential. A national insurer reported that 42 percent of EHR-related medical malpractice claims resulted from system software errors, while over 60 percent involved operator error.

Factors that could lead to liability

EHR aims to have all the information of every patient available in one database that is accessible to all. However, multiple systems are available, and they are not all compatible, bringing about the following problems:

  • Collaboration between different systems -- Interoperability problems could expose patients to harm. The information a pediatrician has available on his or her system might not necessarily include information about interim visits to emergency departments, hospitals, laboratory results and prescribed medication if other service providers used different EHR systems. Pediatricians will still have to rely on parents to provide information of interim treatment.
  • Electronic prescriptions -- A significant percentage of pediatricians transmit prescriptions electronically to pharmacies, but this could also compromise the safety of patients. Once again, the fact that different systems exist could prevent the checking of interactions between drugs prescribed by different doctors. Some programs do not validate pediatric dosages, which need unique functionalities because a child's weight might determine the dosage.
  • Confidentiality and security -- Security features are vital in the use of EHR as cyber attacks, stolen laptops and lost thumb drives pose real threats.
  • Record cloning -- Copy and paste features have significant benefits but also pose risks. If an operator copies and pastes initial reports without subsequent additions or modifications, a doctor will base future treatment on incomplete EHR information, and the consequences can be severe. Transcribing records from previous systems onto the EHR system pose similar risks, and operator accuracy is essential.
  • Reviewing reports -- With all reports related to consultations, x-rays and more created electronically, physicians in busy practices could overlook reviewing some reports before they are incorporated into the overall system.
  • Risk of loss -- A system must be in place for others to retrieve patient information in the event of a medical practice dissolving or the retirement of a physician.

Are you or your child a victim of EHR errors?

These are but some of the potential problems that could arise from technological advancement in the medical industry. Until all the multiple systems become compatible, medical malpractice claims may arise. Navigating such lawsuits will always be challenging; however, the support and guidance of an experienced Massachusetts attorney are available to assist in the pursuit of damage recovery.

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