Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Electronic medical software may lead to loss of medical data

Attempts have been made in many states (including Pennsylvania) to improve patient record keeping for the purpose of patient safety. However, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania refers to specific electronic medical records (EMR) software as a "Tower of Babel."

"You have all these little systems glued together and you get problems like this all the time," the researcher was quoted as saying. The reportedly defective product is, rather than making circumstances better, placing patient's health at risk because vital data because of use of the software is being lost.

It was found that performing a task as simple as clicking the "enter" button, while using such software, in many circumstances has ended in data actually being erased from the patient's files. Doctors later reviewing such records may have no way of knowing that data is missing.

Products liability lawsuits come about when attorneys suggest such products result in unreasonable risk for consumers when being used in an expected manner. The fact that the dangers are not open and obvious only compounds the problem. EMR software was designed to inform doctors of a patient's condition - not deprive them of necessary information in making a diagnosis.

The software is still in use, though doctors are supposed to be educated on the dangers of hitting the "enter" button when preparing a medical conclusion. This is not assuring when such a safeguard is missing that prevents a doctor from knowing that an error was committed to begin with.

Systems in place need to fit the needs of the ordinary user - not software engineers that are aware of the nuances of a particular system. Corporations need to test such products and make sure that all such defects are remedied before it is sent on to consumers.

Source: Wall Street Journal, "Philips Recalls Flawed Patient Data System," by Joel Schectman, July 20, 2012

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