EHRs are not catching over 30% of medication errors

Electronic health records present a patient’s medical history in a way that is seamless and can reduce the workload of doctors and nurses. It can cut down on possible medication errors, too, by alerting users to a potentially harmful interaction between two drugs, an allergic reaction or another adverse event. Yet Virginia residents should be aware that EHRs are not flawless.

Consider, for example, a study that researchers from University of Utah Health, Harvard University, and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital conducted on EHR performance in more than 2,000 hospitals between 2009 and 2018. Researchers used the CPOE Evaluation Tool to measure performance based on simulated scenarios involving potential harm to a patient.

Testing whether EHRs would alert users to these scenarios or simply let a medication order be filled, researchers found that the EHRs failed to detect 33% of errors in 2018. Though this was an improvement from 2009, when EHRs missed 54% of medication errors, it’s still surprising that these errors can easily lead to patients being injured or even killed.

The EHRs studied were from nine different vendors, but these differences did not factor so much in the final scores. Instead, hospitals have a big influence on EHR performance because they choose what decision supports to turn on or off in an EHR system.

It’s possible, then, for the victims of medication errors to hold a hospital responsible for their injuries. Under medical malpractice law, victims have a case only if they can show that an error was caused by negligence, or the failure to follow a generally accepted standard of medical care. Preparing a case can be difficult without a lawyer and their team of investigators, so victims may want legal representation. A lawyer may also assist with negotiations.