Medical malpractice -- doctors need to be careful when using EHR

Doctors in Tennessee making use of electronic health records (EHR) should consider how they use this tool. Many have heralded EHR as an improved way to keep records. Doctors notoriously are known for their illegible handwriting, but EHR is seen as a tool to overcome this problem. Unfortunately, EHR is not foolproof and medical malpractice cases linked to the use of EHR have been reported.

One such malpractice case refers to a toddler who displayed fever, fussiness and a rash as symptoms. The doctor suspected that the child had been bitten by an insect or perhaps suffered from influenza. The child was treated accordingly by prescribing antibiotics, sufficient intake of fluids, as well medication to treat the flu-like symptoms.

The doctor's EHR showed that the child had never been exposed to tuberculosis. This entry was incorrect. The physician simply copied and pasted the notes over a period of time, and the error remained unnoticed. When tuberculosis meningitis was diagnosed during a visit to an emergency department two weeks later, the error became evident. Sadly, the effects of the disease are permanent, and the child suffered severe cognitive defects.

Tennessee patients, or their families, who suffered adverse effects due to a doctor's misdiagnoses or in correct record keeping have the option to file a medical malpractice claim against the doctor. The use of EHR is not a guarantee that the doctor's recordkeeping is accurate and correct. In fact it may provide proof of the doctor's negligence. Consultation with an attorney specializing in medical cases can assist victim in the taking the best course of action if they suspect incorrect recordkeeping.

Source: aappublications.org, "Lessons learned from EHR-related medical malpractice cases", Richard L Oken, Aug 8, 2016

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