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Cause of Medication Errors Made with Pediatric Patients

By January 9, 2019January 21st, 2019Blog, Medical & Hospital Malpractice
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Electronic health records, technology to help make healthcare safer, may be causing a serious medical error harming young patients.

An electronic health record (EHR) is a modern update to patient charting, replacing paper with digital technology.  A patient’s medical history, including past diagnoses, medical tests, and treatments, is captured. Theoretically, an EHR offers the potential for reducing mistakes and a better comprehensive treatment plan.

Wrong Medication Dosage

One of the items included in an EHR is a patient’s medications.  Medication errors, which include giving the patient the wrong medication or the right medication in the wrong dosage, are one of today’s most common but serious preventable medical mistakes.

Recent research established a correlation between EHRs and dangerous medication errors made while treating pediatric patients.

Published late last year by Health Affairs, the study (“Identifying Electronic Health Record Usability and Safety Challenges in Pediatric Settings”) reviewed some 9,000 pediatric medical care safety event reports.  Researchers found that more than one-third of those cases – 36 percent – included a medication error that was related to the patients’ EHRs.  And just about 19 percent of those medication errors were not caught before the children received treatment.

The researchers noted that many of the medication errors suffered by the pediatric patients were harmful.  The most common medication error caused by electronic health care records was the wrong dosage.

EHRs are supposed to be a major improvement over paper patient charts, but the study uncovered several issues with the digital versions that led to the pediatric medication errors.

Technology Mistakes that Lead to Medication Errors

More than 80 percent of the EHR problems were categorized as “system feedback,” such as the EHR not issuing a warning when a large medication dosage was ordered.  Another was when the EHR mistakenly defaulted to a wrong administration time or day for a young patient’s prescribed medication.

One reason to replace paper charts is to eliminate problems with poor handwriting.  Yet almost 10 percent of the medication errors related to EHRs were caused by a confusing digital readout of the information.

And another 6 percent of the pediatric medication errors were caused by data entry snafus into the EHRs.

Standard medical care includes technology, but as this study indicates, there can be pitfalls. Human confirmation and fail-safe protocols should also be included to guard against harmful medical mistakes that should never occur.

If you or a family member were a victim of sub-standard medical care and were critically injured as a result, an attorney experienced in conducting in-depth investigations of medical malpractice claims can determine what went wrong.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

Authored by Gray, Ritter & Graham, P.C., posted in Blog January 9, 2019