How Has Making Medical Records Electronic Hurt Patients?

Ten years ago, the government of the United States of America claimed that introducing digital records of patient history in hospitals and healthcare institutions would be groundbreaking and produce fruitful results. Fast forward to today, and things haven’t turned out that well. 

Even after an estimated investment of $36 billion into transferring written information into electronic data, patients are still not at ease with this change, as well as with numerous issues cropping up.

All of the patient’s paperwork, which was written by hand, had to be added to computer programs. The plan was to eliminate the possibility of errors that can result from nurse and doctor handwriting. 

Recording, transmitting, and processing important patient-related data within seconds has many advantages, but things didn’t go as planned.

The problem with electronic medical records is not with the entire health industry, but with the programs that are used for entering data. These programs can produce some unwanted results, and due to this fact, a patient’s life can be put at risk. 

Let’s see how has electronic medical records have hurt patients in the past, and if there are any ways to eradicate them. 

  • A patient’s weight is entered in either pounds or kilograms. Entering the weight wrong or using the wrong unit of measurement will result in the inappropriate dosage of medication. This happens when the program recommends the correct dosage based on symptoms or health concerns. The program isn’t smart enough to question if the weight is correct, and the doctor may not stop to second-guess the result.
  • Lab results with different panels of diagnosis often take time. If one of the panels is still pending, the lab can manually notify the doctor. But running a lab result on a digital program doesn’t understand the act of pending panels, so instead of showing the rest of the panels, the program might recommend a medication that would negatively interact with the patient because the other lab results are unknown.
  • Software glitches are increasingly common and could cause a loss of information or wrong information being displayed.
  • An electronic device stands between a doctor who can have healthy and effective communication with the patients sitting in front of him. Most of the time, healthcare workers spend their time using dropdown menus and clicking over and over again just to input simple information.
  • There is also fraud. With software developers selling unneeded features or unstating the capabilities of their system, resulting in millions of dollars being wasted.
  • One of the worst is “gag clauses” that prevent people who use these systems from speaking out about safety issues or other flaws with the system, which means that patients may be at greater risk and would never know.

Technology dominates our lives, often for the better. But it doesn’t always hold true in every situation. While you could argue that the fault might lie with the stakeholders who approve the development and installation of digital records without adequate oversight, there are obviously many moving parts that outside observers can’t know. With enough time, hopefully, things get better, and digital records make the healthcare industry more efficient.