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Do electronic records pose a risk to patient safety?

Written by Ankin Law Office

The Affordable Care Act has changed many facets of health care for Illinois residents. Not all of these changes are necessarily beneficial. In 2009, the new law offered incentives for doctors who began using electronic health records in their practices. Now, providers are facing hefty penalty fees if they do not implement the systems. The goal of the program is to streamline medical recordkeeping and eliminate paper files. Critics say the future of medicine does include electronic health records, but the fines are unfair at this stage, when the flaws in the systems render them impractical and even dangerous.

In January of 2015, the American Medical Association led 37 medical societies in sending a letter to the U.S. Health and Human Services Department. The letter stated that medical professionals believe the cumbersome electronic programs are not only less efficient, they also compromise patient safety. An Illinois medical malpractice lawyer may express concern about the problems providers and their patients are experiencing due to these systems.

Program malfunctions

The potential for medical errors is present in many different parts of the electronic recordkeeping process. These include issues such as self-populating fields that are difficult to check, the ability to accidentally cut and paste between the wrong records, and the potential for data loss through system glitches. While computer errors can cause problems in any profession, an Illinois medical malpractice lawyer is aware that they are potentially fatal in the medical field.

A recent federal survey that included 10,000 physicians evaluated the success of the health record program. According to a USA Today news report on the results, 15 percent of the participants claimed electronic record systems could have led to serious medical errors. In some cases, the computer programs directed the providers to prescribe wrong medications. There were also problems with systems indicating lab orders were necessary, even though the tests were not appropriate for the patients.

Higher risks

Physicians claim they are having to spend too much time putting information into the computer and can no longer spend an adequate amount of time with each patient. When doctors spend less time discussing symptoms and concerns with patients, the risk of making a wrong diagnosis is much higher. Patients are noticing shorter visits and longer wait times, and many complain that doctors pay too much attention to the computers and are distracted during the sessions.

When doctors are unable to focus on patient safety due to malfunctioning, confusing or distracting computer programs, the potential for medical malpractice is much higher. An Illinois medical malpractice lawyer may be able to help victims of physician or system errors to receive compensation to cover medical expenses, pain and suffering and lost quality of life.

Categories: Medical Malpractice