EHR usability issues put pediatric patients at risk

Georgia residents who work in the field of medicine may know about the problems that arise with electronic health records. These problems can prove a detriment to provider satisfaction and clinical effectiveness. According to new research from Pew Charitable Trusts, pediatric safety is often impacted as well.

EHR issues may contribute to drug prescribing and administration mistakes. Children must have medication dosages adjusted by weight and age, yet current federal requirements do not reflect this difference between pediatric and adult patients.

The EHR data display itself may make some patient health information inaccessible. For example, a nurse might be unable to read medication instructions if these are entered into a field designed for use by a pharmacy. The display may fail to show the next time for an antibiotic administration and never prompt the user to open the order so as to see the date.

Data entry can be fraught with problems. In one publicized case, an EHR's default setting gave the wrong age for a patient and consequently produced an inaccurate vaccination schedule. The wrong EHR setting can automatically discontinue medication for a patient whose life depends on it.

In all, Pew described 12 EHR-related events that could have harmed patients. Researchers uncovered thousands of safety events while working with a mid-Atlantic health care system and two children's hospitals.

EHR issues may form the basis for a medical malpractice claim if there is clear proof that the doctors or nurses involved were negligent. Proving negligence means showing a failure to live up to an objective standard of care. Since the requirements are strict, the victim of malpractice (or the parents if the victim is a child) may want a lawyer to perform a case evaluation. The lawyer could also help negotiate a settlement.

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