If you're 40 or older, you probably remember a time when every doctor's office had shelves of paper files that contained the important medical records of each patient who passed through the doors. Somewhere along the line, that changed. It gradually became the norm to keep patient records on computerized files.
Eventually, an industry was born that was designed to modernize the entire system -- complete with what were supposed to be enhancements that would keep doctors from making mistakes with diagnoses and medication errors. However, it didn't work.
If you're old enough to remember the paper medical records, you likely recall the trouble that developed between VHS tapes and Beta tapes and the confusion that occurred between consumers. If so, you have some idea of the problems that doctors and hospitals are having trying to deal with systems that don't work well together.
However, the problem is much more serious. It's on a grander scale and can have dangerous -- or deadly -- consequences for patients.
There are hundreds of competing companies designing electronic health record (EHR) systems -- and the software isn't always what it should be:
- Patient medication lists aren't reliable.
- Prescribed medications sometimes fail to show up in a system.
- Physician notes get mixed up with the wrong patient's chart.
- Prescriptions get printed out the wrong way.
- Lab results don't always get tracked right.
All around, the digitization of health records has been an expensive process -- but not altogether successful. The industry knows that there are problems. However, they don't know quite how to fix them.
If you've been the victim of a medical mistake due to an error with an electronic health record, find out more about your legal rights.