How Electronic Health Records Can Lead to a Medical Malpractice Case
When you visit your medical provider due to an injury, illness or treatment for a chronic condition, your medical records play an important role.
Your doctor checks these records to learn about your medical history and whether your family has a history of illnesses. The doctor also examines these records to check on your allergies, past and current medications and symptoms you have reported in the past.
If these files contain inaccurate or inadequate information, it could lead to diagnostic errors and other medical mistakes that could cause serious harm.
Most medical providers have switched from keeping medical records on paper to using electronic files.
On one hand, electronic health records (EHR) can allow doctors and medical staff to check a patient’s information in a highly efficient manner. However, on the other hand, they can also lead to medical malpractice.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that EHR systems can improve the legibility of medical records and increase the amount of information that is documented and shared. However, user and system errors pose a significant risk to patients.
How Can Electronic Health Records Reduce Medical Errors?
As HealthIT.gov reports, EHR systems can be used to easily collect and share important information about a patient’s medical history and the current care and treatment that a patient is receiving from all medical care providers.
In addition to enabling multiple healthcare organizations to access the information, EHR systems also:
- Provide an efficient, legible way to record patient data over time
- Eliminate the patient’s need to fill out medical forms at every visit
- Identify patients who are due for screenings or preventive treatments
- Enable more comprehensive monitoring of a patient’s response to medications, treatments and procedures
- Allow the patient’s information to go with the patient when he or she moves.
All of the above help to improve the overall quality of care a patient receives and reduce the likelihood of medical errors due to gaps in the patient’s health record.
How Can Electronic Health Records Lead to Medical Errors?
At the same time, EHRs are still subject to human and technical errors.
As reported in 2016, a study by patient safety experts at Johns Hopkins Medicine found that medical errors and mistakes are now the third-leading cause of death in the United States, resulting in more than 250,000 deaths each year.
Common types of medical errors include:
- Missed or incorrect diagnosis of a patient’s symptoms or conditions
- Surgical errors such as performing the wrong procedure or operating on the wrong site
- Medication errors such as administering the wrong medication or dosage.
Improper documentation in health records can lead to these errors.
For instance, under a paper-based system, medical mistakes could result from information not being recorded or shared among providers or due to entries being too difficult to read or understand.
EHR systems, like any computer program, are subject to reliability and performance issues.
The AAP states that, with multiple EHR systems and platforms in use, problems and delays in accessing medical records can occur at times when this information is needed the most, such as in hospital emergency rooms and during admittance.
Smaller medical offices may not have switched over to electronic records, making it important for medical providers to double check to ensure there is no missing information.
Common Types of Electronic Health Records-Related Medical Errors
Cases involving medical errors usually involve several years between the time when the event occurred to the time when a claim is filed.
A Politico report on medical malpractice claims resulting from EHR issues states that the overall number of people involved in these types of cases has increased dramatically, more than doubling over the past several years.
Common types of errors cited in these EHR-related claims include:
- Errors in data entry leading to prescription medication mistakes such as prescribing the wrong medication or the wrong dosage amount
- Voice recognition software that drops important keywords when entering data
- Errors in nurses’ interpretation of ERS system functions such as drop down menus, prompts and alarms
- Misinformation included in patients’ charts as the result of copying and pasting clinical information from past visits
- Lack of proper physician oversight for lab and X-ray reports received and entered electronically into the EHR system.
All of these errors could result in serious complications for a patient.
Additionally, many EHR systems have built-in coding for billing, which is based on the services entered into the system by the provider. These codes are subject to error, which could result in overbilling, or a patient being charged for procedures or services which were not received.
How Can You Access Your Medical Data?
Do you have questions or concerns about the types of information contained within your medical records?
Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), you have the right to view this information at any time. Your medical providers are required to make this data available, regardless of whether you owe the provider any outstanding debts or are involved in any disputes over your treatment.
Do you have concerns about the privacy and security of your records?
While HIPAA requires all providers to keep your medical records and information private, the AAP advises that there are some security issues with EHR systems that could make them vulnerable to hacking.
Harmed by an EHR-Related Medical Error? Our Attorneys Can Help
If you or someone you care about has been hurt or injured as the result of an EHR-related medical error, contact the experienced Illinois medical malpractice attorneys of Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., today.
We understand the devastating effects these types of situations can have on both you and your loved ones. Our firm provides the aggressive legal representation you need to hold negligent medical providers accountable and seek the compensation you need to recover.
Patrick A. Salvi concentrates his legal practice in several limited areas primarily involving a trial practice in cases concerning serious personal injury, medical malpractice, wrongful death, and mass torts. Mr. Salvi has achieved record-breaking jury verdicts and settlements on behalf of his clients, including serving as lead counsel in obtaining an Illinois record-high $148 million jury verdict and a Lake County record $33 million jury verdict.