Technology advancements in many respects are a good thing. However, when it comes to avoiding serious medical errors, a growing acceptance of certain technology may be hurting, rather than helping the cause.

A recent study conducted by The Doctors Company, a medical malpractice insurance company, looked at electronic health records (EHR) and patient safety. The study established an expanding link between EHRs and medical malpractice lawsuits. More specifically, the findings paint a vivid picture of a growing reliance on EHRs and how such technology – via either human error or system design flaws – contributes to medical mistakes.

This study compared closed EHR-related medical malpractice claims from 2007 to June 2014, and those from July 2014 through the end of 2016.

EHR-linked Medical Malpractice Lawsuits on the Rise

In the first 78 months, from January 2007 to June 2014, the study identified 97 medical malpractice claims linked to errors involving electronic health records. In just the following 18 months, there were 66 such claims. (From 2007 through 2010, there were only two EHR-related medical malpractice claims.)

Researchers found some good news in that those using the technology appear to be more comfortable with it. Human error factors, which include ignoring alerts and making data entry mistakes, fell 6 percent between the two time periods.

On the other hand, medical errors stemming from the technology systems themselves jumped 8 percent. Examples of these types of problems include systems that lack a sufficient number of alerts and warnings, systems that aren’t properly integrated with each other, formatting insufficiencies, and software that is not properly updated.

EHR User Error and Poor System Design Cause Medical Mistakes

The study spotlighted specific incidences of EHR medical mistakes involving user error or system flaws. One case involved a physician simply cutting and pasting the same patient progress notes for four days, which did not properly reflect the patient’s deteriorating condition, leaving the patient with a serious spinal injury.

Another example involved an EHR system that did not offer a complete drop down menu option for dosage of a specific medicine. The doctor selected the wrong dosage, causing the patient to be admitted to the ER.

The study found the most common EHR-related medical error was misdiagnosis, either failure to diagnose, a delay in diagnosis, or an incorrect diagnosis.

The second most common type of medical error involving EHRs were medication mistakes, including giving the patient the wrong drug or the right drug but in the wrong dosage.

When medical errors are made and a patient is seriously injured, the causes may be many and not readily apparent. Today’s growing reliance of technology must be included as a possible factor. Reportedly, 96 percent of U.S. hospitals now use EHRs.

If you had a family member die or you suffered severe physical harm due to a mistake in medical care, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney to conduct a thorough investigation on your behalf.

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

Authored by Gray, Ritter & Graham, P.C., posted in Articles October 25, 2017