I have been practicing in the medical malpractice field for over twenty years. In that time, I have seen many trends that effect patient health. The transition to electronic medical records (EMR's) is one of the biggest changes to modern medicine in the last 50 years, and not in a good way.
I recently chaired a seminar on Electronic Medical Records at the Arizona State Bar Convention. It was well attended not just by lawyers for patients and doctors, but also risk managers, doctors, nurses, and hospital representatives. As a result, there was a lively discussion about this issue.
First, some background is important. As one of the parts of the Affordable Care Act, the government mandated through a series of incentives and penalties, that all health care professionals adopt electronic medical records systems. As a result, almost all doctors and hospitals have gone away from writing in paper charts, to entering data into a computer system. The idea was to improve efficiency and patient safety.
Unfortunately, this transition caused just the opposite. All in attendance loudly lamented the new systems are confusing and require far more time to document a patient's condition. Doctors and nurses spend untold hours clicking boxes that have nothing to do with the patient's condition.
As a result, doctors and nurses are frustrated. They have to spend far more time with their computer than with patients. One orthopedic surgeon at the conference shockingly described he has been forced to schedule 30% less patients each day because of the burden of these EMR systems!
Moreover, these systems are causing serious harm. A recent report by The Doctor’s Company, a medical malpractice insurance company, documented the dramatic rise in claims because of these systems. The report describes that because of these systems, mistakes are being made in medications, test ordering, communication between medical providers, and inability of doctors to get the medical information they need. Often these medial mistakes are catastrophic, and cause serious harm to patients.
These are not harmless mistakes. I recently handled a medical malpractice case in which a patient was severely harmed because his medical provider did not inform him of the results of a test showing he had a serious illness. The reason the doctor did not inform the patient was because the computer system did not communicate the test result to the doctor. I am seeing many clients who have received poor medical care, which in part was the result of confusing medical records systems.
What does this mean to the average person? First of all, carefully check all of your medicines. There are many reports of patients being harmed by receiving the wrong medicine. Second, patients need an advocate when in the hospital. If you heard what these nurses and doctors were saying about the care they are giving, you would be very nervous about being in a hospital right now. If you have a loved one in the hospital, make sure you are asking a lot of questions and making sure your love done is getting safe care.