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Electronic medical records may lead to misdiagnosis

In this day and age of advanced technology, many physicians and institutions use electronic medical records to document patient's’ health care symptoms, diagnosis, treatments and prescription medications. Although the technology is designed to eliminate mistakes and potential medical errors by keeping patient information in a format that can be shared easily with other physicians, software glitches in the system have led to many mistakes.

In one case, a woman died of a brain aneurysm which should have been caught during multiple visits to the physician’s office prior to her death. One physician had ordered a brain scan that would have potentially caught the problem, but the electronic system did not send the request to the lab, and the scan was never completed. Other reports of problems occurred when patient notes appeared under the wrong patients, medication lists failed to update, drug interaction warnings would not work in certain circumstances, wrong drugs would appear under patient profiles and lab results were not tracked. All of these software issues cause increased likelihood of medical errors that could harm or even kill patients.

The Leapfrog Group performed a study in 2016 that found that in 39% of cases, the electronic records system in a hospital did not alert physicians to harmful drug orders. Approximately 13% of those cases could have fatal consequences. Other groups have performed studies charting the accuracy of electronic medical records and have shown similar results of misreporting, mislinking and false alarms given.

Patient’s should be aware of this problem with medical records and should be actively involved with their healthcare. By demanding information, following up with physicians and getting a second opinion, they may help to prevent otherwise avoidable medical errors.



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