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Pew: EHR usability issues can harm pediatric patients

Electronic health records are known for their usability issues, which can reduce clinical efficiency and raise the risk for errors, especially those relating to medication. Pennsylvania residents who work in the medical field should know that such issues can have a great impact on pediatric patients. This was the subject of a report from Pew Charitable Trusts.

When pediatric patients are given medication, the dosage must be adjusted based on their weight and age. Yet federal requirements for EHRs do not address the challenges that can arise in a pediatric setting. ONC is currently drafting voluntary rules for EHR use in such settings, and Pew conducted its study to inform the policymaking process. The report gives 12 examples of potential patient safety events.

In one instance, a nurse committed a medication administration error because the doctor had entered special instructions into a field that was designed for the pharmacy to use. Thus, the EHR did not display the information. The clunky interface on EHRs can prevent some information from being clearly displayed and may not prompt users to open the order to see the upcoming date of administration.

Automatic EHR functions and default settings have been connected to many errors. One setting, for example, automatically discontinued medication for a patient whose life depended on it. EHRs may also fail to alert users about a drug allergy.

Sometimes medication errors can be the result of negligence. In this situation, victims (or their families) might be able to submit a medical malpractice claim. A lawyer may evaluate the case, request assistance from the local medical board as well as hire third parties to carry out their own investigations. Victims may let their attorney handle all the negotiations. In cases when a settlement can't be achieved, they may consider litigation. A successful claim may reimburse victims for medical bills, lost wages and more.

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