Many have expressed satisfaction at the recent trend towards electronic medical recordkeeping. At Passen & Powell, our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys still have some reservations, however, about these new systems.
The possible privacy issues with electronic health records have received considerable press. But the security of electronic health records is not the only potential issue. There are also the problems inherent in all computer systems: software defects and user errors.
Software bugs are the only of these concerns unique to electronic recordkeeping. As any computer user knows, almost all computer programs, especially new ones, have flaws. If these flaws cause problems, such as improper medication or dosage, etc., the results for any one patient could be catastrophic, even fatal.
The complete lack of oversight for such programs can only exacerbate the problem. Our Chicago personal injury lawyers understand that not only is there no set of standards or requirements for electronic health records programs, but there are no obligations imposed upon the manufacturers vis a vis the purchasers and patients. At present, no federal regulation requires the disclosure of software problems or issues to purchasers. Indeed, some vendor contracts actually prohibit such disclosures.
This is why a recent article, published in the Berkeley Technology Law Journal, calls for federal regulation of electronic health records. The article was written by two professors from Case Western Reserve University who have, in the past, called for federal oversight and regulation of systems used to maintain electronic health records. These professors note that until a set of requirements is imposed, patients are at risk. Our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers agree.
In addition, electronic health records systems are highly susceptible to problems also present in more conventional recordkeeping. For example, any recordkeeping system can experience dangerous errors if it is overly complicated. But electronic recordkeeping is particularly prone to this problem because electronic systems are generally more complicated to access and manage than paper-based systems. These complicated systems can then lead to errors and omissions, which in turn can lead to dangerous misdiagnoses or treatments: in short, medical malpractice.
Likewise, electronic health records systems can be problematic if any one of the many users is not given adequate system training. Unlike paper-based recordkeeping, which is generally largely straightforward, electronic recordkeeping can be rather complicated. But every user who will have responsibility for inputting patient data must be fully and completely trained in the new system, or the patients may suffer the consequences. Again, this problem may be present in traditional recordkeeping, but is more pronounced in the new electronic systems because of their inherent complexity.
The lawyers at Passen & Powell join with others in urging the federal government to take control of electronic health records. Although the use of such recordkeeping provides many benefits, including patient convenience and easier sharing of critical data between healthcare providers, there are also many dangers. Appropriate regulation must be put in place to protect patients.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago personal injury lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.