Think about how much easier it is for you to store, access, and share information and documents today compared to 20 years ago. Instead of digging through thousands of pieces of paper in hundreds of files kept in a bunch of cabinets, everything is right on your laptop or thumb drive, ready to view or send to others in seconds. It’s quicker, more collaborative, and much easier.

Now imagine the same transition with the billions of pages of medical records that contain the critical health and treatment information of hundreds of millions of Americans. While no doubt an enormous undertaking, the switch to electronic health records (EHR) was supposed to improve care and give health care providers instant access to patient information kept by other providers. EHR was going to increase efficiency and lower health care costs and, most importantly, reduce the likelihood of mistakes that lead to patient harm and medical malpractice claims.

New Problems and New Risks to Patients

Unfortunately, that’s not how it worked out. Instead of improving the process for doctors, hospitals, and patients, the government-sponsored transition – which has so far cost $36 billion – has created a whole new list of problems for doctors and hospitals and risks for patients. It has caused frustration and confusion, and software failures.  Most likely, the inability of different systems to share information has led to serious injuries and deaths.

A recent in-depth and explosive investigation by Kaiser Health Network and Fortune magazine revealed the scope of the problems with electronic health records and how they put the health and lives of patients at risk. Published in March, “Death By 1,000 Clicks: Where Electronic Health Records Went Wrong” explores how things went wrong and how EHR has impacted the health care industry and the quality of patient care.

Here are some key findings, conclusions, and issues identified in the article:

  • “Physicians complain about clumsy, unintuitive systems and the number of hours spent clicking, typing and trying to navigate them — which is more than the hours they spend with patients.”
  • “Our investigation found that alarming reports of patient deaths, serious injuries and near misses — thousands of them — tied to software glitches, user errors or other flaws have piled up.”
  • “Unlike, say, with the global network of ATMs, the proprietary EHR systems made by more than 700 vendors routinely don’t talk to one another, meaning that doctors still resort to transferring medical data via fax and CD-ROM. ­Patients, meanwhile, still struggle to access their own records — and, sometimes, just plain can’t.”
  • “The systems are often so confusing (and training on them seldom sufficient) that errors frequently fall into a nether zone of responsibility. It can be hard to tell where human error begins and the technological short­comings end.”
  • “Quantros, a private health care analytics firm, said it has logged 18,000 EHR-related safety events from 2007 through 2018, 3 percent of which resulted in patient harm, including seven deaths — a figure that a Quantros director said is ‘drastically underreported.’”

This isn’t the first study to reveal the link between EHR problems and patient harm. A 2017 study by The Doctors Company, a medical malpractice insurer, found a continuous and significant increase in EHR-related medical malpractice claims over the ten years it analyzed.

Speak With a Michigan Medical Malpractice Lawyer Today

Compounding the problems for patients is the fact that a veil of secrecy surrounds EHR-related medical errors, with non-disclosure agreements and efforts to limit liability making it difficult for injured patients or families to learn what happened. This is where experienced medical malpractice lawyers can help. If you believe you were the victim of a medical mistake connected to electronic health records, the medical malpractice lawyers of Sommers Schwartz can thoroughly investigate the situation, uncover the truth, and pursue compensation for your losses.

Please contact the attorneys in Sommers Schwartz’s Medical Malpractice Litigation Group for a free consultation to review your case.