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Electronic medical records have led to medical mistakes

Though keeping electronic medical records on file was designed to make hospitals more efficient and improve on the level of care, there can be a variety of problems with this sort of system as well. For example, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's system recently crashed for a number of hours. Fortunately, the hospital had an alternate database that had patient's files available to remedy the problem.

Though keeping records in this manner was designed to speed the system up, many doctors and nurses have found the systems to instead be time consuming and not always user friendly. And there have been cases where the wrong medication was ordered for a patient that could have resulted in disastrous consequences.

The problem worsens when there is more than one database containing the patient's records. Information in one database may not reveal what is contained in another database. Obviously, records that are incomplete can lead to a number of medical and medication errors.

An even greater concern is that problems with electronic medical records databases may not be immediately discovered. There also is not in place a procedure for reporting errors that are related to files that are stored electronically. It is currently believed that these types of errors could be tied to 60,000 medical mistakes affecting patient's health every year.

Like for all other medical errors, someone will need to be held accountable for a mistake. Lawyers and patients hold hospitals accountable for when doctors and nurses are guilty of errors. Likewise, hospitals need to be held accountable when errors come about due to mistakes made in the filing of electronic medical records that can lead to patients being injured.

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

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