No Safety Switch: How Lax Oversight Of Electronic Health Records Puts Patients At Risk

Special interests and congressional inaction blocked efforts to track the safety of electronic medical records, leaving patients at risk.

One study uncovered more than 9,000 patient safety reports tied to EHR problems at three pediatric hospitals over a five-year period.

Allegations of EHR-related injuries or other flaws have surfaced in the courts. KHN/Fortune examined more than two dozen such cases, such as a California woman who mistakenly had most of her left leg amputated because the EHR sent another patients pathology report indicating cancer to her medical file. A Vermont patient died after a doctors order to scan her brain for an aneurysm never made it from the computer to the lab.

Despite such incidents, experts believe EHRs have made medicine safer by eliminating errors due to illegible handwriting and in some cases speeding up access to vital patient files. But they also acknowledge they have no idea how much safer, or how much the systems could still be improved because no one a decade after the federal government all but mandated their adoption is assessing the technologys overall safety record.

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