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Electronic health records still cause medication errors

On Behalf of | May 24, 2021 | Medical Malpractice

Electronic health records (EHRs) are used almost universally in hospitals in Olean and across the country to keep track of everything from patient medical histories to medication records. First implemented in the 1960’s as a means of replacing cumbersome hand-written records and filing systems, EHRs were considered a more efficient way of effectively reducing the number of patient injuries that resulted from medication safety problems.

Some of the medical errors that computerized systems are supposed to correct through the issuance of warnings to doctors are the dangers of prescribing medications that could cause allergic reactions, adverse drug interactions and excessive doses, as well as other harmful effects based on a patient’s medical history. Unfortunately, computer systems routinely adapt their EHR software to suit each hospital’s unique needs, so safety performance measures vary from one hospital to the next.

The hidden cost of preventable medication errors

Over the span of a decade, the percentage of detection of potential medical errors by EHR systems improved from 54% in 2009 to 66% in 2018. This means that up to 1 in 3 medication problems are still not caught by EHRs.

A medication error includes the commission or omission of any step, including the examination of the patient’s medical records, in the process from the medical professional’s prescription of a medication and dosage to the patient’s exposure to that medication. An adverse drug event (ADE) is the harm that the patient experiences as a result of being improperly medicated.

Nearly one third of adults in the United States take five or more medications. Every year, ADEs account for close to 700,000 emergency room visits and 100,000 hospitalizations, and it is estimated that up to half of these ADEs are preventable.

The elderly are particularly vulnerable to ADEs, as they tend to be on more medications due to multiple health conditions. The four medications that account for more than half of all emergency room visits of Medicare patients due to ADEs are antidiabetic agents, oral anticoagulants, antiplatelet agents and opioid pain medications.

Filing a medical malpractice suit

A medical malpractice lawsuit for medication errors can be difficult to prove. Often, the plaintiff may encounter challenges if the medical professional who is the defendant is part of a consolidated health group. It is important to know the applicable statutes of limitations for filing as well as whether or not the case is better settled out of court.

Developing a strategy with experienced legal professionals with a proven record of successful settlements can help you to understand your options and the best way forward.