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The dangers of electronic health records

In this day and age of booming technology, electronic health care records in the medical field are standard. Patients who are seen by primary care physicians, have surgical procedures performed or have screenings ordered by a specialist, have their records recorded in a database that can be easily shared between medical professionals. Although this technology would seem to break the barriers of medical miscommunication and decrease the rate of medical errors, this may not be true.

In one case, a woman died of a brain aneurysm because of an electronic health records system failure. During this situation, the woman’s physician listened to her complaints of on-going head pain and issued an order for a brain scan to rule out any bleeding. Yet, the order was not transmitted properly, and the woman did not receive the brain scan which could have saved her life.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. A prison using an electronic records system reported issues involving patients’ records. Different drugs would appear on the wrong patient’s record and medications were ordered that patients were no longer taking. Physician’s notes would appear on the wrong patient’s profile, lab results were not being tracked and drug interactions were not flagged. All of these glitches leave room for catastrophic errors to occur.

Currently, 96 percent of hospitals have electronic records systems, and many physicians’ struggle to navigate the systems and the errors that accompany them. Rather than protect patients’ records and wellbeing, some systems seem to put patients at a greater risk of medical errors.

Source: Fortune, “Death by a Thousand Clicks: Where Electronic Health Records Went Wrong,” Ericka Fry and Fred Schulte, Mar. 18, 2019.

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