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Is there a safety net for electronic health records?

According to a recent report, patients appreciate the access made possible by electronic health records, or EHRs. That viewpoint parallels the recent trend toward digitization. In the last three years, online access to EHRs has almost doubled.

Advocates of the movement hope that increased access will improve patients’ involvement in their own health care planning. Digital records may also facilitate coordination between various doctors utilized by a patient. However, are there adequate safeguards to ensure the accuracy of these records?

For example, a facility that uses EHRs should have a protocol for safeguarding against one patient’s data being mistakenly entered into another's. If records are mixed up, the potential for medical injury could be high. A medication order placed in the wrong patient’s EHR could have serious consequences. 

Our firm takes a special interest in helping victims of medical malpractice, including medication errors. As we note on our website, around 7,000 deaths in the United States may be attributable to negligent prescriptions. There are several intermediary steps between a doctor's prescribing medication and the patient receiving it from his or her local pharmacy. At each point, something could go wrong. For example, an incorrect dosage may have been prescribed simply by adding a 0 behind the prescribed dosage like 10 instead of one milligram of a drug. Perhaps the wrong drug was prescribed. Whatever the reason, any negligence regarding prescriptions could translate into serious injury for the patient.

Yet doctors and hospitals may have substantial resources to defend against medical malpractice lawsuits, including insurance policies. Without an attorney, a victim of a medical mistake or a doctor’s negligence may make little headway. Fortunately, an attorney that focuses on medical malpractice may have strategies for launching a thorough investigation and developing evidence for trial. 

Source: Fierce EMR, “Consumers more comfortable with electronic health records,” Marla Durben Hirsch, Dec. 10, 2014

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