Imagine that your grandmother enters the hospital with stomach pain and has a pre-existing heart condition, arrhythmia. Her medication, propranolol (Inderal), is listed on her chart and she is being treated accordingly. Then, suddenly, her heart races out of control, she has a stroke and dies. A re-examination of her medical chart finds that arrhythmia is no longer listed in her medical history and there is no reference to propranolol. After investigation, it’s discovered that there was a glitch in the hospital’s electronic health record (EHR) system and it deleted this vital medical information. In essence, this fatal error was caused by computer malpractice.
Computer malpractice can happen as a result of technological glitches, human error and system design defects; it can threaten the quality of patient care and safety, as well as the safety of patients’ health data. These types of errors are typically caused by simple human mistakes or computer malfunctions, as opposed to egregious medical negligence. Medical malpractice lawyers need to be aware of the potential for “EHR malpractice” and should familiarize themselves with the potential pitfalls, from software system selection to its implementation and use. Currently, the regulations in place to monitor the accuracy and safety of EHRs, and certifications for system operation and use, are severely lacking.