Nearly 70 percent of doctors in Pennsylvania and across the country have transitioned from paper to electronic recordkeeping. Digital medical record storage can be efficient, easily accessible and - unlike doctors' often hard-to-decipher handwriting - readable.
Most medical sources and studies agree electronic data storage is useful, but it's not perfect. In some cases, missing, delayed or incorrect data can lead to medical errors and patient harm.
The son of an 84-year-old woman is suing an eastern Pennsylvania hospital for his mother's
. The plaintiff, a doctor, said the medication his mother was prescribed was correctly listed upon her admission for stroke symptoms.
Within days, the woman suffered heart problems. The son then noticed that one of the drugs she had been prescribed to control heart rhythm was missing from the patient's electronic chart. Complications developed that led to the woman's death in 2011. The son is convinced negligence - an error in the electronic records - was to blame.
The Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority released a study in December tying medical mistakes to electronic recordkeeping. The report, based on U.S. Food and Drug Administration data, found medical errors traced to digital records doubled between 2010 and 2011.
Mistakes in electronic records can cause drug overdoses or omissions, medical image delays and unneeded surgical procedures. Over eight years ending in 2011, the FDA recorded nearly 3,100 instances of health care errors due to inaccurate electronic records.
The makers of health information technology are not monitored or required to report adverse events. The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies called the unregulated practice "unacceptable."
The Pennsylvania wrongful death claim may succeed, in part, because the victim's woman's son is a physician. The doctor noticed something that might only catch the eye of a medical professional. Patients and family members of medical malpractice victims often require the help of a skilled attorney to determine whether a liability case exists.
Digital Health Records' Risks Emerge as Deaths Blamed on Systems
" Jordan Robertson, Jun. 25, 2013