June 10, 2013

Electronic Health Records Create New Opportunities for Prescription Errors

by Lebowitz & Mzhen

With the advent of new electronic means of managing patient health records, there are now additional ways in which prescription errors can take place.

For example, PCEHR, the Personally Controlled eHealth Record System, was adopted in June 2012 in Australia. facts%20list.jpgIt is a health information database designed for use by patients, and according to the National E-Health Transition Authority's website, "is currently distributed across a wide range of locations including their general practices, hospitals, imaging centres, specialists, and allied health practices." In essence, the PCEHR is somewhat like an all encompassing electronic health record of a patient. The aim of the program is to make the healthcare system more streamlined and efficient, allowing patients to effectively "share" it with relevant care providers.

A recent article entitled "Pharmacy Error Probable Cause of PCEHR Problem," which was published appropriately enough in Australia's eHealth Magazine, details how one woman's PCEHR somehow received not one but two incorrect prescriptions.

The author reported that she discovered that two prescriptions had been added to her PCEHR. The prescriptions were for drugs that had never been prescribed to her, and were for medical conditions that she did not have.

The drugs were not only written into her record, but apparently were also dispensed by her local pharmacy, even though a notice regarding a consultation at the time they were allegedly dispensed was lacking. The relevant government agency encouraged the woman to inquire with the pharmacy regarding the error, and in doing so the pharmacy cancelled the prescriptions on her patient file. Within a day of the pharmacy's correction, the woman's PCEHR was also updated. However, the government told the woman that the same prescription had actually been dispensed on an additional occasion, from a different pharmacy.

While no ultimate cause for the error has been unearthed, a suggested possibility was that the original prescription was written with several refills, and whoever received the original prescription had the wrong patient information input, which then carried along as the prescription was refilled.

This raises the problem of identity verification with these systems. However, the author also points out that without the electronic record, she wouldn't have ever known about the error in her file, and thus wouldn't have been able to rectify it.

Fortunately, the error in this case did no actual harm to the patient. Sometimes, however, the incorrect prescription is actually administered to the wrong person, which can lead to serious injury, and sometimes death. Other common errors in electronic systems include things like prescribing medications with similar spellings or names, incorrect dosaging, and incorrect patient name selection, such as in this case. These errors often proliferate because of a lack of oversight or double checking for errors. Additionally, it has been reported that in programs with warning beeps, which are automated to detect errors, workers can become so accustomed to overriding these warnings, that they overlook deadly drug interactions or other problems.

If you or a loved one has been injured or has died as a result of a medication or pharmacy error, contact the experienced Maryland pharmacy error attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC. Medication errors are becoming increasingly common, and can cause substantial harm. Our attorneys have extensive experience in advocating on behalf of individuals who have been harmed by medication errors, whether they were improperly prescribed, dispensed, or administered. Contact us today by calling (800) 654-1949, or through our website, in order to schedule your free initial consultation.

More Blog Posts:

"Check Your Pills" Essay Tells of Woman's Personal Debilitating Pharmacy Error Injury, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog, published June 3, 2013

Asthmatic Nearly Dies After Dangerous Drug Administration, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog, published May 24, 2013