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Doctors aren’t always responsible for medication errors

Hospitals in New York and across the country rely on electronic systems to track patients’ medical histories. These systems are capable of tracking histories for new patients and people who have received treatments at other medical facilities.

EHRs and medication

Called electronic health records, staff and professionals once considered EHRs a vastly more efficient method of storing and sharing vital information. Doctors can use them to access a patient’s comprehensive history and inform their decisions regarding medication.

The computerized systems are designed to issue warnings based on:

  • The patient’s medical history
  • Potential allergic reactions
  • Adverse drug interactions
  • Excessive dosage 

These alerts can warn of harmful effects when medical professionals are prescribing medications.

Unfortunately, recent studies have found that computer systems adapt EHR software to suit each hospital’s unique requirements. This adaptation results in a high degree of variability in safety performance measures.

Although the detection by EHR systems of potential medical errors improved from 54% in 2009 to 66% in 2018, one in three medication problems still go undetected by EHRs.

Limitations on technology

Medication errors can take a serious toll on patients, but they can still happen despite medical workers’ efforts. Some of these errors stem from issues with EHR systems, such as:

  • Failed or improper system inspections by federal regulators
  • Access complications 
  • Lack of standardization
  • Failed alerts

In other words, should a patient suffer an adverse drug event, it may not be the fault of a doctor or nurse. It could be the tragic result of an unanticipated mistake made by technological systems.

Further, EHRs are only as accurate as the information patients and workers put into them. If patients are dishonest or withholding, records can be inaccurate.

Adverse drug events can create or exacerbate a patient’s medical conditions, so medical professionals and facilities must prioritize training, oversight and programs to minimize them. However, even when these precautions are in place, the limitations and complications presented by technological advances can contribute to medication errors.


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