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Use of EHRs may lead to medical errors

Electronic health records are increasingly used in medical practice in Illinois, but they may play a part in medical safety errors, especially errors in medication. A study published by Health Affairs found that more than 50 percent of pediatric medical errors were linked to the functionality of EHR systems. The studied involved more than 9000 safety reports from people who were patients from 2012 to 2017. Records from three separate healthcare companies were examined.

According to the report’s lead author, who is a Ph.D. and director for the National Center for Human Factors in Healthcare, usability shortcomings with EHR systems can lead to patient medication errors. The biggest problems, he said, are tied to system visual displays and feedback. EHRs might not give healthcare professionals the right alerts when a medication is prescribed and the patient is allergic to the medication. Visual display errors happen when the EHR displays are confusing for healthcare workers or too cluttered to be easily understood.

The federal agency charged with overseeing EHR systems, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, has established policies to improve EHR usability, but the policies only rarely distinguish between pediatric and adult patient populations. The report says this lack of distinction can cause problems with to pediatric medication dosages. Researchers concluded that 84.5 percent of medication mistakes were due to incorrect dosages and 3.5 percent were tied to incorrect medication timing.

Medication errors can cause patient harm. In the study, researchers found that 18.8 percent of the errors might have caused harm to the patients. People who are injured due to medical malpractice might be able to recover for damages including pain and suffering, medical expenses or lost wages. A lawyer with experience in personal injury law might be able to help injured parties by gathering evidence, deposing witnesses or negotiating a settlement with healthcare institutions and their insurers.