Medical Diagnostic Errors Caused by Technology
EHR tablet

Electronic health records (EHR) are used in medical care in the name of efficiency and patient safety, among other benefits. However, there is new evidence that EHRs are a leading cause of a serious medical error – misdiagnosis.

Electronic health records are computerized patient charts used by most medical care facilities. They provide easy access to patient information – personal identification and health history – and allow for easy sharing among healthcare providers.

According to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, a federal agency, the benefits of EHRs include:

  • Help doctors better diagnose patients
  • Reduce medical errors
  • Provide safer medical care

A study published in April in JAMA Open Network offers instances that challenge where these benefits are realized.

Oregon Health & Science University conducted the study (“Identifying Electronic Health Record Contributions to Diagnostic Error in Ambulatory Settings Through Legal Claims Analysis”) using records of closed medical malpractice lawsuits from 2015 through 2021. The medical malpractice claims database encompassed over 500 healthcare centers.

Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Alleging Diagnostic Errors

Researchers and outside physicians confirmed 199 instances of medical malpractice lawsuits alleging diagnostic errors. For this study, researchers identified a diagnostic error any time a provider wrongly determined the cause of a patient’s medical condition or symptoms.

Reviewing further, researchers found 122 medical malpractice claims of misdiagnosis in which EHRs were a contributing factor – or more than 60% of the lawsuits. Three-quarters of those lawsuits resulted in financial payment to the plaintiffs.

Misdiagnosis is a preventable medical error that includes:

  • A missed diagnosis
  • A wrong diagnosis
  • A delayed diagnosis

A substantial percentage of the mistakes alleged in the medical malpractice claims involving EHR use involved missed, delayed and wrong diagnoses.

Errors Made During The Diagnostic Process

The study in JAMA also identified the stages during medical care that the EHR-related diagnostic mistakes were made. Nearly 92% of the diagnostic errors were made during testing. Most of the remainder were made during the assessment stage, when providers reviewed the patient’s physical symptoms, considered a diagnosis, and interpreted test results.

Researchers also identified the actions by providers using EHRs that resulted in misdiagnoses. Half of the actions were execution errors during the diagnostic process. These errors involved delaying patient testing or making an error testing, as well as failures to relay test results to another doctor.

About 46% were ordering errors by the healthcare providers, which were failures or delays in ordering the correct medical test. That same percentage also involved wrongly interpreting test results or failing to follow-up on the results.

According to the study, EHRs play an important role in the diagnostic process. But design issues or user errors with the technology can lead to a potentially catastrophic mistake when diagnosing patients.

If you believe you or a loved one was seriously harmed by a misdiagnosis or something other error during medical care, a personal injury lawyer can investigate and pursue just compensation on your behalf from all negligent parties.

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

Authored by Gray Ritter Graham. Posted in Blog May 2, 2023.


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