Digital medication orders failing to flag some fatal mistakes

A new study says that digital medication orders may be failing to flag many potentially lethal drug orders.

A new report by the non-profit organization the Leapfrog Group, which is known for ranking hospitals on patient-safety performance, is casting doubt on whether digital medication orders are reducing medication errors as much as they should, according to USA Today. The move to digital medication orders and other electronic systems has increased in recent years as part of a push to reduce medical errors and increase patient safety. According to this latest report, however, while the new focus on digital orders and records is having some positive impact on patient safety, the new system is still failing to flag many dangerous and even lethal mistakes.

Digital medication orders

The Leapfrog Group surveyed almost 1,800 hospitals nationwide, the vast majority of which had a computer-based medication ordering system in place. The report found that of all orders that were placed through a digitized system, such systems failed to flag 40 percent of orders that were later found to be potentially harmful. Just as worrying, the computer systems failed to flag 13 percent of potentially lethal medication orders.

The fact that such systems are failing to flag potentially dangerous medication orders is particularly ironic given the fact that these systems were largely put in place to reduce medication errors. According to Kaiser Health News, medication errors are the leading cause of hospital errors, with one 2015 study showing that one in 20 hospital patients are harmed because of medication errors. Furthermore, half of all medication errors are considered avoidable.

Concerns about digital medicine

It is important to note that the move towards digital medication orders and electronic health records has helped reduce hospital errors in many cases, especially those caused by human error. However, the push toward digital recordkeeping is, critics contend, presenting its own patient-safety concerns. Many doctors, for example, have complained that the new systems are counterintuitive or that they encourage copying and pasting from one chart to another, which could lead hospital staff to overlook small but important differences between charts. Other critics contend that the systems have inadequate safeguards in place to protect against potential errors.

Medical malpractice

While the era of digital medicine has seen some improvements in patient safety, it is clear that errors can and still do occur far too frequently. Medical errors are one of the leading causes of death in the United States and it is incumbent on medical practitioners to always make patient safety their top priority. When an error happens, the result could be an injury or even death. Anybody who has been harmed by a potential medical error should get in touch with a medical malpractice attorney immediately. Medical malpractice cases tend to be highly complex and an attorney who is experienced in handling such cases will be best positioned to provide strong and vigorous representation for injured clients.