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E-records led to Massachusetts woman's death, other issues

Medical industry leaders have started to realize that they need to catch up with evolving technology. Many medical providers in North Adams are on the cutting edge when it comes to equipment or treatments. Despite those advancements, there is still room for a doctor error due to an antiquated record-keeping system. The recent push for electronic records is intended to eliminate that risk, but some people argue that the process of changing systems is creating additional hazards.

The number of doctor's offices in the country with electronic records nearly tripled from 2008 to 2013. Advocates note that using such a system can keep medical costs low and also improve patient care. However, there is no procedure in place to evaluate the safety of the vendors selling the e-records systems, which can lead to medical facilities using computerized processes that are prone to mistakes and increasingly complex.

The results of this can be deadly, as illustrated by one Massachusetts woman who was given excessive insulin during her hospital stay. The mistake arose because nurses at the hospital received two separate prescriptions listed under different doctors. One prescription was on paper, the other was digital. The new and old prescribing systems at the hospital do not interact with each other, which is why the overmedication occurred. Researchers who evaluated roughly 5,700 malpractice claims over the course of a year found that 147 of them were tied to electronic health records.

While making technological improvements can be a good thing, and in some cases, a necessity, it is important that those changes are done carefully. When it comes to caring for people’s medical needs, every precaution should be taken to ensure their safety. Someone who is a victim of medical negligence should consult with an attorney as soon as possible in order to explore filing a malpractice lawsuit.

Source: The Boston Globe, “Hazards tied to medical records rush,” Christopher Rowland, July 20, 2014  

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