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Majority of mistakes involving EHRs are medication errors

As hospitals and doctors in Rhode Island make the switch from paper records to electronic health records systems - otherwise known as EHRS -- it is important for them to understand the impact that errors with these systems can have on patient care. The information recently gathered from a study may be of assistance to companies building these systems, as well as to hospitals and clinics implementing them.

The study examined medical errors that were directly caused by electronic health records systems for a specific state. According to the study's results, close to 80 percent of the errors reported were for medication errors. The errors were primarily attributed to dispensing incorrect medication and range from a problem with a hospital's EHR to an allergy note being entered in the wrong field by a staff member.

These findings point out that there are serious safety issues with the electronic systems, just as there was always a safety risk with older paper systems. The study, which covers errors from the years 2004 to 2012, shows that, as electronic systems are joined with other medical departments' and pharmacies' systems, medication errors could affect multiple parties more quickly than the old paper methods could.

Another large portion of the medication errors in the study was attributed to patient under-medication. Some of this was caused by the fact that hospitals are still in the middle of transitioning to electronic systems. This means that they are creating records with the paper and the electronic method, and neither record is receiving all pertinent information for that patient. Also shown in the study is a need for better training of hospital staff on electronic health records systems.

Rhode Island hospitals should take this study seriously and apply the results to ensure that their staff is properly trained. More than one patient's well-being depends on it.

Source: MedCity News, "EHRs May Turn Small Errors Into Big Ones," Stephanie Baum, Dec. 16, 2012

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