A number of systems are in place to prevent a medication error in the hospital.  Still, medication errors remain the most common source of hospital errors.  One system developed to reduce prescription error is the “computerized physician order entry,” or CPOE, which is used by 97% of hospital nationwide as part of their electronic medical record.  However, a report issued by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONCHIT) warns that these computer systems fail to flag 13% of potentially fatal mistakes.

“These findings show the transition from pen and paper to electronic ordering and prescribing is making patients safer — with the systems flagging nearly 9 in 10 possible errors,”   said the chief safety officer for ONCHIT.  “But the report also serves as an important reminder to clinicians and the health IT community broadly that there is more work to do when it comes to our top priority: the health and safety of our patients.”

Electronic medical records (EMRs) are under fire for numerous reasons including reducing bedside vigilance, creating a medical record that is not accurate, sapping time and resources from bedside care, and medication errors.  A report by Castlight Health and Leapfrog Group, which study patient safety issues, showed that around 40% of the most common, dangerous prescription errors overall were not caught by CPOEs.  Less than 75% of Ohio hospitals have systems in place to catch a majority of serious, potentially life-threatening medication errors.

We have blogged before about the dangers of EMRs, and these new reports support our concern that this technology is not ready for prime time.  Indeed, it puts patient’s lives at risk.  As Ohio medical lawyers, we are familiar with limitations in the use of the EMR.  For example, often physicians fail to enter critical data.  When a medication error occurs, and a patient dies or suffers serious injury, then any investigation into a medical malpractice or wrongful death claim should include an inquiry into whether a computer error contributed to the mistake.

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