Electronic Health Records May Increase Risk of Medication Errors

In an ironic finding, considering a recent article indicated that ordering drugs via a computer order entry system actually decreased the risk for error, a new study analyzed by Pharmacy Practice News concluded that Electronic Health Records (EHRs) may lead to an increase in medication and other treatment errors.

The study found that for various reasons, electronic health records may lead to more drug mistakes rather than prevent them.

The study examined the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Reporting System (PA-PSRS) database, and by utilizing specific search terms, found over 8,000 relevant reports during an eight year period. After sifting through the results, a little over 3,000 were found to have some sort of error.

Among these, the results were as follows:

  • 89% of the records were labeled “event, no harm,” meaning that the error did not result in an adverse effect on the patient
  • 10% were labeled as constituting “unsafe conditions,” which also did not result in patient harm
  • 0.48% involved some sort of temporary harm to the patient.

Of these 0.48%, the harm was caused by:

  • entering incorrect medication data
  • administration of incorrect medicine
  • ignoring a documented drug allergy
  • failing to enter lab test results
  • failure to document

One of the incidents in particular involved a failure to document an allergy to penicillin, which resulted in a significant harm to the patient.

Of all of the resultant error, 81% of them dealt with medication errors, including incorrect medication, incorrect dosage, timing, patient or route. Of the remaining errors, around 13% were regarding issues with complications of procedures, tests, or other treatments.

A common recurring problem uncovered by the researchers was the entering of data in the wrongplace, or inputting incorrect information, such as the wrong physician name.

What this study reenforces is that computer systems, even in the healthcare setting, are not perfect. As a patient, it is important to always review medications prescribed to you, making sure it is the correct medication. It is also important to fully understand the instructions provided by one’s healthcare provider and ask questions if in doubt. Often times a patient must be their own advocate. Unfortunately, even with a sophisticated system, errors may still occur. Human beings are not perfect, and even excellent computer systems cannot completely correct them. The study mentioned how in many cases, the person inputting the medicine may incur a sort of warning message fatigue due to having to ignore so many warnings from the system. This can result in them ignoring a warning message that is actually relevant, and that when ignored may adversely affect the patient.

If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of medication or pharmacy error, the experienced Maryland attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen can help. Our attorneys have many years of experience in assisting victims of medication errors who have been injured by drugs whether prescribed, dispensed, or administered incorrectly. Contact us online today, or call (800) 654-1949 in order to schedule a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case.

More Blog Posts:

Birth Control Pill Error May Cause Unintended Pregnancy, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog, published April 15, 2013
Watered Down Chemo Given to Thousands of Patients in Compounding Error, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog, published April 8, 2013

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