Hospitals in Pennsylvania and around the country rely on electronic health record systems to ensure that patient information is updated regularly. These systems are designed by computer specialists to provide doctors with all of the information they need to make prudent medication and treatment decisions, but the way this data is presented is sometimes so confusing that it leads to errors. Researchers from the National Center for Human Factors in Healthcare studied 9,000 pediatric patient reports gathered at three hospitals between 2012 and 2017. Most of the errors they discovered were connected to EHR functionality.
The researchers found that medication errors were often caused by EHRs with cluttered displays that confused health care professionals. Other systems provided information more clearly but failed to warn doctors and nurses about potentially dangerous drug allergies. Medication errors linked to EHR usability were found in more than a third of the cases studied by the researchers. Overdoses and other forms of dosing errors were the most likely types of medication mistakes observed.
The study concludes that these errors could have harmed as many as 18.8 percent of the patients. Pediatric patients face even higher risks when EHRs fail to issue medication alerts because they weigh less than adults and even minor dosage mistakes can be dangerous. In one of the cases studied, an EHR failed to issue an alert when a doctor ordered a dose that was five times the recommended amount.
Even the most skilled doctors can make mistakes when the equipment they rely on provides inaccurate or contradictory information. Experienced personal injury attorneys may be familiar with the issues surrounding EHRs and other health care technology, and they may consult with IT specialists and hospital administrators when these issues could play a role in medical malpractice litigation.