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Electronic Health Records Fail to Prevent One in Three Medication Errors

Electronic Health Records Norway | AccentureThe expanded use of electronic health records systems in US hospitals has meant ease and convenience, but has not led to as significant a reduction in error rate as hoped. A new study says that these systems could fail to detect as many as one in three of medication errors.

According to the results of a new study, electronic health record systems fail to detect as many as 33 percent of medication errors. The results of the study were published recently in the JAMA Network Open. The researchers say that the primary benefit of using electronic health records systems is their role in detecting and preventing medication errors, which are some of the most common medical errors.  If these systems are not doing that, there needs to be a deeper analysis of their roles and how these systems can be made safer and more foolproof.

The use of electronic health records has become widespread because of their benefits in reducing the incidence of medication errors. These errors are not only some of the most common medical errors, but also some of the deadliest ones with the potential to cause long term patient harm, or even death. Electronic health records systems are meant to warn doctors when there is a risk of drug interactions or adverse events from the use of a medication, and detect dosage errors like under dosages or excessive dosages.

This new study, however, seems to cast a shadow on the efficacy of these systems in the prevention of medication errors.  The researchers analyzed many such errors over a ten year period beginning in 2009. They found that the success of these of these systems in preventing errors only marginally improved from about 54 percent in 2009 to just 66 percent in 2018.

One cause of the problem could be the fact that hospitals are required to customize the software for their facility. Therefore, a medication error risk alert that is triggered at one facility for one patient may not be triggered at another hospital for the same patient.

While evaluation tools are available for hospitals to study the effectiveness of these systems, many have not bothered to evaluate the success and efficacy of their systems, raising concerns that the actual failure rate of electronic health records systems may be much worse than the study indicates.