Study shows EHRs are contributing to medication errors

A study published in Health Affairs shows that it's not just human error that leads to medication mistakes. Electronic health records introduce several risks as well, especially in the field of pediatric medicine. South Carolina residents should know about these usability issues, which are related to system feedback as well as visual displays.

As for an example of the former, EHRs may not provide alerts when a medication is prescribed to a patient with a known allergy to that drug. In the latter case, clutter on the visual display or confusion in reading it can make it hard for clinicians to enter in the appropriate medication information.

Researchers analyzed 9,000 patient safety reports between 2012 and 2017 from three different health care institutions, finding that 36 percent of them involved an EHR usability issue leading to a medication error. Of these, more than half of the errors were related to both the EHR and the medication. Almost 19 percent may have led to patient harm. The common errors were dosage errors, most of them overdoses.

Children are especially at risk because the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, which oversees EHRs, has few policies for distinguishing between adult and pediatric patients. Problems with EHR designs, implementation, customization and use may be putting thousands of patients at risk.

Medication errors can form the basis for a medical malpractice claim, but for a claim to be valid, several requirements must be met. For example, there must be a preexisting relationship between doctor and patient, and it will have to be demonstrated that the practitioner failed to exhibit the requisite standard of care.