In the Information Age, the trend has been towards greater transparency in every aspect of life, except, it seems, medicine. Healthcare providers have long sought to conduct their activities in secret. Now, patients have even greater reason to fear the lack of transparency in their healthcare. The Recovery and Reinvestment Act allocated millions of dollars to encourage hospitals to adopt electronic record-keeping systems, called electronic healthcare records (EHRs) or elecrtonic medical records (EMRs). EHRs have been marketed with the pitch that “new is better.” But that isn’t always true. EHRs have been implicated in causing so many injuries to patients that healthcare providers have coined to term “e-iatrogenic injury” to describe such injuries. Healthcare providers, too, have voiced concerns about EHRs, since the auto-data and drop-down menus utilized by these systems prevent caregivers from accurately charting patient data unless it fits within some pre-formatted paradigm. Lawyers who represent patients who have been injured by medical negligence have found that it is next to impossible to obtain a complete copy of their client’s medical chart when it is contained in an electronic format because vendors of the record-keeping software did not provide for printing the electronic record out in a hard copy.
Further, “meta-data,” such as access logs showing when a record was accessed, is not designed to make it easy for lawyers to determine whether the record was altered or falsified after an injury occurs. Here, a new Bill seeks to make EHRs even more dangerous by protecting healthcare providers against liability arising out of the use of the EHR:
The implications of this Bill are potentially far-reaching. It is time that healthcare providers come out into the light of day so that their conduct can be fully and accurately scrutinized like every other business, profession and citizen. By contrast, this Bill seeks to provide more unnecessary and dangerous privileges to healthcare providers.
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