Risk of medical errors persists within EHRs

Health care workers in Arizona hospitals increasingly depend on electronic health records to manage patient care and pharmaceutical prescriptions. Researchers have been analyzing user errors within these systems to identify ways to improvement them and avoid medical errors.

Wrong-patient errors and wrong-medication errors represent two prevalent sources of mistakes within an electronic workflow. These happen when an inattentive user makes the wrong selection from a pick-list menu within the user interface. Issues that contribute to these problems include poor workflow design and a lack of communication with the patient, especially about current medications. Alert fatigue among caregivers also lessens their chances of catching mistakes when inputting electronic information.

Researchers suggested that including patient photos on every screen could reduce mistakes. Better standardization of medication names could help workers avoid confusion. The presentation of a summary screen after completing an order also emerged as a way to help users catch errors. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is contributing to these efforts.

Even with the problems that have been detailed, it is widely believed that electronic health records have made a great contribution to the reduction in surgical errors and other medical mistakes. However, there is still a human element that is involved, and overworked surgeons, nurses or other health care professionals can sometimes neglect to take certain steps that results in a patient’s being harmed. People who have been the victim of such an error may want to meet with a medical malpractice attorney in order to see what recourse they may have.