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When trying isn’t good enough: Errors persist in medical records, putting patients at risk

A recent study found that “serious safety vulnerabilities persist” in the use of electronic health records. The study reviewed safety performance over the span of ten years, from 2009-2018.

Since medication problems are the most frequent cause of injury to patients, the study used a measurement tool from The Leapfrog Group to gauge whether patient safety has improved. Specifically, experts wanted to see if the use of electronic health records with computerized physician order entry (CPOE) and clinical decision support (CDS) has been successful in eliminating medication errors. CPOE requires physicians to enter orders directly into a computer, rather than writing orders by hand or giving them orally to a nurse. CPOE can reduce patient harm by ensuring that physicians enter standardized, legible, and complete orders. CDS can help reduce patient harm by automatically proving ordering physicians with information on drug interactions, allergies, and other potential problems.

A review of the data from 8,657 hospital-years showed some gains. In his article published in PEW entitled “Study Shows Electronic Health Records Improving But Safety Concerns Remain,” Ben Moscovitch explains that, “The CDS tools’ ability to catch errors in simulated orders rose from 53.9% of instances in 2009 to 65.6% in 2018.”

Patient Safety Progress is Being Made but Medication Errors Still Occur Way Too Often

While this progress is good, the fact remains that medication errors still occur more than a third of the time. “In particular, the researchers highlighted continued weaknesses in crucial functions, such as the mechanisms intended to flag possible errors in medication orders.” Moscovitch points out that “EHRs have helped transform health care delivery, but this study highlights that more attention is needed from developers, hospitals, and policymakers to ensure that health IT reaches its full potential to improve patient safety.”

Policy often drives performance. Therefore, perhaps safety regulations are in order; at the very least, continual evaluation is necessary to monitor the safety measures that are in place, to identify best practices, and to troubleshoot specially identified problems. The goal should be to eliminate entirely medication errors that injure patients. Even if a “zero-error” goal is difficult to reach, an effort directed toward that goal could well drive the error level down into the single digits, which would translate into the elimination of hundreds of thousands of injuries each year.

At The Eisen Law Firm, we have filed lawsuits on behalf of many victims of medication errors, including lawsuits against some of the supposedly “best” hospitals in Ohio, hospitals that have the resources and personnel to reduce or eliminate these errors but for one reason or another continue to make such mistakes.

If you or someone you love has been the victim of a medication error, contact The Eisen Law Firm to discuss your options and make sure that you have the skilled representation you deserve. To schedule your free consultation, call 216-687-0900 or contact us online today.