When the topic of medical malpractice is discussed in Maryland and throughout the nation, the first thought is that there was a hands-on mistake on the part of a doctor, a nurse or by someone in the medical facility. Often, this is precisely the case. However, mishaps can occur for other reasons. Regardless of the cause, people who are subjected to a medical mistake whether it is a misdiagnosis, medication error, surgical mistake or any other gaffe can face long-term consequences and even death.
Researchers analyze cases to keep track of medical mistakes and their causes. A recent study shows that errors due to electronic health records (EHRs) is a growing concern. The study, which included researchers from Harvard and others, found that one out of three medication errors, including dangerous drug interactions and medication mistakes, were missed by EHRs.
Medication errors refer to mistakes in prescribing, dispensing and giving medications. One study had found that nearly 100,000 people die and one million people are harmed each year due to medication errors. Experts believe that the most preventable type of mishap is medication-related.
In the past 20 years, hospitals and medical facilities have become increasingly reliant on EHRs. Since medication errors were the frequent cause of mistakes and patient harm, healthcare professionals expected that EHRs would automatically catch these potentially lethal combinations. In turn, this would reduce their frequency.
When medical professionals prescribe and dispense medication, EHRs would flag those that could be dangerous based on patient allergies, inappropriate combinations and adverse effects. This research indicates that these problems continue despite EHRs and the accompanying safety protocols designed to stop it.
One factor viewed as contributory to the ongoing mistakes is software. The EHR software must be adapted based on the facility’s requirements, and frequent updates are necessary. If a healthcare facility is not vigilant about staying up-to-date, their EHRs may not have the ability to catch medication errors.
Using real-world incidents, the researchers simulated scenarios to see how many errors EHRs caught and would have prevented. It used more than 2,300 hospitals across the U.S. to check on the effectiveness of EHRs. This took place over a decade starting in 2009. Slightly more than half the potential mistakes were caught at the beginning of the study. By its conclusion, that had increased to around two-thirds. That is better, but still not optimal.
When a person goes to a physician or a hospital for medical treatment, there is a natural expectation that the care will be appropriate. That includes the proper diagnosis, medications, surgical procedures and general care. Technology is expected to be a fundamental part of patient care. As this research shows, mistakes happen regularly and can harm patients.
For people who have been injured, had a worsened condition, did not receive treatment quickly enough or lost their lives, this should be investigated to determine how to proceed. If there is even a suspicion that medical malpractice was the cause, it is wise to have legal assistance. A consultation with experienced professionals can be beneficial to deciding on the next step.