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Medication errors linked to issues with electronic health records

Watching clinicians enter information into electronic health records has become a familiar sight to patients in Iowa. Although substantial effort has gone into designing the user interfaces for these electronic records, including input from health care professionals, a new study concluded that usability issues contributed to medication errors and other mistakes.

Researchers reviewed 9,000 safety reports about patients from 2012 to 2017 at three different medical institutions. The study looked specifically at pediatric patients and determined that electronic systems needed to improve management of medication dosing between adult and child patients. Improper doses were the most common type of medication mistake, according to the study’s lead author. The usability of the EHR hindered health care personnel in 36 percent of the safety problems, and 18.8 percent of the errors harmed patients.

Feedback provided by the EHR system and cluttered or confusing visual displays represented the primary issues identified by the study. An EHR might miss alerting a clinician to an allergy or excessive dose when prescribing medication. The user interface appeared to cause other problems when people had trouble inputting information or finding it.

At every point during the delivery of medical services, health care workers have a duty to obey accepted standards of care. When a person suffers harm in a medical setting, an attorney might help the person get answers about what went wrong. An attorney could obtain opinions from independent physicians to build a lawsuit when an error appears to meet the definition of medical malpractice. To pursue damages to pay for additional medical bills and lost earnings, an attorney could negotiate with the physician’s insurer or prepare the case for trial. If a settlement offer emerges during this process, legal counsel could help the victim evaluate its acceptability.

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