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Electronic medical record default settings to blame for errors

Electronic medical records have made a huge impact in the medical profession in Pennsylvania, and beyond, over the course of the past few years. In addition to patient information being available at a keystroke, it is also touted by many as a way to help decrease medical mistakes. Based upon this, hospitals throughout the nation must make the switch to the record keeping system.

A report recently released by a Pennsylvania state agency indicates that the records may not be as good at preventing medical errors as first thought. The report indicates that the settings applied to the system are important. As a result of problems with these settings, over the course of the last decade, more than 300 medication errors have occurred in the state.

The incorrect settings resulted in those medication errors in the following ways:

  • The failure to administer a drug
  • Administering the incorrect amount of a drug
  • Giving a patient a drug at the wrong time of day

By far the most medication errors were due to the last reason on the list.

Some of the instances led to individuals suffering harm, at least temporarily. Fortunately, the matter can be fairly easily addressed. The author of the report, who is also a senior patient safety analyst with the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority, said that the errors would likely be reduced if individuals employed by the hospitals were to regularly check to make sure that the default settings are correct. Since electronic health records appear likely to stay around, it is important that matters such as this are addressed in a timely manner.

Source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “Errors in default settings of electronic medical record systems raise risks for patients,” Alex Nixon, Sept. 6, 2013

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