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Electronic health records implicated in medication type errors

The debate continues as to whether electronic health records do more harm than good. A recent study of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Reporting System databases claims that thousands of medication and other types of errors are occurring due to use of the electronic records.

The great majority of the errors did not result in any harm to patients. Other errors that resulted in what was called "temporary harm" came about because of incorrect medication information was added to the records, and this resulted in administration of the wrong medication. In at least one case it resulted in significant harm where a patient that was allergic to penicillin was nevertheless prescribed the medication.

Of all the errors reported that were related to the electronic records, 81 percent of those errors involved medication and prescription type errors. Mistakes included prescribing the wrong drug, administering the incorrect dosage, or, again, the ignoring of patient allergies. The failure to take into account lab tests sometimes indirectly resulted in these medication errors.

Certain authorities felt that data in the Pennsylvania study was incomplete or didn't take all factors into account. One such authority suggested that a mixture of paper and electronic records actually presents greater dangers to authorities in that such a system is much more "chaotic" and can result in doctor's orders being missed.

Ultimately, medical providers need to check and double check whatever kind of record system is used. Attorneys representing patients will hold medical providers accountable in any case when an injury occurs. Any record system put in place by hospitals needs to simplify rather than complicate the record keeping procedure.

Source: Pharmacy Practice News, "Pennsylvania Study Reveals Errors Associated with EHRs," by Georgia Ochoa, April 22, 2013

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