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How EHR usability issues can harm pediatric patients

As most Illinois health care workers know, electronic health records do not have the most user-friendly interfaces. These EHR usability issues can actually increase the risk of errors and injury. A new study from Pew Charitable Trusts has focused on the harm that these problems can cause children in particular.

Pediatric patients are susceptible to EHR-related medication errors because the dosage they require will vary based on weight/age and EHRs do not adequately take this into account. The Pew report, which is meant to inform policymaking as ONC drafts EHR voluntary rules, has come up with 12 scenarios in which pediatric patients might be harmed.

ERD data displays may make patient information inaccessible, causing doctors to administer the wrong medication or miss a dosage. In one case, a doctor added an important note that the nurses could not see because it was written in a field meant to be used by the pharmacy. In another, the EHR failed to display an upcoming drug administration date, leading the nurse to conclude that it had already been administered.

Automatic EHR functions and standard default settings can also be a potential source of errors. For example, the EHR may set a default administration time, enter an incorrect age for patients or automatically discontinue a drug.

Medication errors can form the basis for many medical malpractice cases. For such a case to be valid, there must be proof that the doctors or nurses involved were negligent; that is, failed to live up to a generally accepted and objective standard of medical care. A victim (or the family of an injured pediatric patient) may want to see a lawyer for a case evaluation before moving forward. The lawyer could potentially handle all negotiations.

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