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Are Electronic Medical Records Safe?

Posted on December 27, 2010

Are electronic medical records the answer to reducing medical errors and increasing patient safety? Almost two years ago, President Obama promised $19 billion to help the nation’s hospitals change over to a paperless system but it still hasn’t happened, and now there are some doubts whether or not electronic records are really an improvement over paper ones.

The Institute of Medicine created a 16-member panel, the Committee on Patient Safety and Health Information Technology, to conduct a yearlong study following 260 reports from hospitals of misinformation that led to 44 reported injuries and possibly 6 deaths. Since the information is voluntarily reported, no one knows the real magnitude of the problem.

Computer problems, design flaws, human and computer errors plague the electronic system, according to an article in The New York Times. Also, often patient records have gone missing or been misfiled in another patient’s electronic record. These errors can include drug allergy warnings and blood pressure readings, important information for the next health care provider to have.

More than a decade ago, an Institute for Medicine report, “To Err Is Human” estimated there were as many as 98,000 preventable fatal medical errors every year in the U.S.

RAND Corporation, a think tank and research center, found physicians caught about 2 percent of drug prescribing errors, while 98 percent went un-caught. The RAND report concluded that doctors concerned about medical errors should enact a new set of tools to reduce malpractice risk.

If you or a loved one has been harmed by a medical error, a careless doctor or nurse, or a hospital-acquired infection, the Florida medical malpractice attorneys at Farah & Farah will meet to discuss the specifics to determine if there was medical negligence in your case.