Electronic health records (EHRs) were supposed to increase record transparency and eliminate a lot of mix-ups that can happen when handwritten records get jumbled, are hard to read or simply get mixed up or lost.
The idea is that health care providers can only open one patient file at a time, so there’s less chance to confuse one patient’s information for another’s, which might happen if someone were pouring over a stack of paper files.
Unfortunately, the idea was better in theory than in execution.
EHRs don’t improve accuracy in record-keeping or provider practices
Recent studies have shown that providers still tend to make roughly the same number of errors, whether they can open one patient file at a time or several. Mistakes include ordering the wrong test or procedure for a patient or mixing up one patient’s medication or condition with another.
In an experimental study involving more than 3,000 health care providers, half were allowed to access only one set of patient records at a time, while the other half could access up to four sets of records. The group that was more heavily restricted made 88 errors per 100,000 orders, while the group with access to multiple records only made 91 errors pers 100,000 orders.
What does this tell you about EHRs and your medical care? The old adage, “garbage in, garbage out” applies to EHRs, and you can’t assume that new technology can overcome old-fashioned human errors.
A medical mistake caused by a mix-up in a patient’s electronic health records can be devastating. If you’re a patient who has been injured or their loved one, find out more about your legal options for recovery.