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Electronic medical records (EMRs) could be a hazard to your health.

In 2009, then-President Bush mandated the use of electronic medical records through the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH).  The aim was to incentivize the healthcare industry to digitize medical records within a decade.  The goals of adoption of EMRs (or EHRs—electronic health records) included:

  • Improve coordination of patient care
  • Boost privacy and security of protected health information
  • Improve public health
  • Involve individuals and families in their healthcare
  • Increase the safety and quality of healthcare and reduce errors

Since that time, widespread adoption of EMRs has occurred, but there is uneven success on the original goals that drive digitized doctoring.  While paper charts occupied only the paper needed to record an office visit, EMRs can run into thousands of pages of repetitive notes that make it difficult for healthcare providers to coordinate care, or view an accurate medication list. While healthcare portals provide patients access to their records, they have become an outstanding target for hackers. The number of healthcare data breaches under investigation by US Department of Health and Human Services negates the idea that EMRs improve data privacy (when viewing the list, keep in mind HHS only requires report of breaches affecting 500 or more patients).

A recent study published in JAMA Network Open reviewed EMRs used by 112 hospitals in the US. A survey taken by 5,689 healthcare providers measured the experience of those using the EMRs. Not surprisingly, the research found that EMR usability and patient safety are correlated—a difficult to use, distracting EMR could open the door for misdiagnosis or medication error.  Consider:

  • Alerts and pop-ups intended to aid clinicians with a diagnosis or chart reminder can prove distracting.
  • Poorly designed EHR interfaces and screen can cause fatigue and take time away from the provider-patient relationship.
  • Clinicians might spend less time documenting care with EMRs that are difficult are complicated to use.

Study authors note approximately 400,000 patients per year suffer injury due to hospital error.  EMRs can just as easily introduce opportunity for medical care as reduce its incidence.  Notes corresponding author Dr. David Classen, “Hospitals and health systems have spent more than $100 billion on EHRs over the last decade, and most believe that these systems are completely safe and usable but that is not necessarily the case.”

Our health data is now digitized in a form more likely to induce medical and medication error and leave poorly protected health portals open to hacks. While the initial effort to increase digital doctoring was successful—improvement is needed.

Experienced medical malpractice attorneys help you in Maryland and Washington, DC

With decades of successful litigation experience, Schochor, Staton, Goldberg and Cardea, P.A. is well-known for aggressive legal service on behalf of our clients seriously injured through medical error.  Contact us today or call 410-234-1000 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.