Cut and paste may be more of a risk than a surgeon's knife

Modern medicine is a complex process. No longer are you examined by your family doctor, who may have been overseeing your care for decades. Especially in a hospital, multiple specialists may see you in a short period. None of these doctors, nurses or other health care professional may speak with one another. Instead, they rely on what are known as electronic health records (EHR). In many hospitals, your chart is no longer a clipboard, but a computer screen.

EHRs have many positive attributes, given the demands of a modern health care setting. But one area where they may fall short is that as easy as they may be to update, they are even easier to cut and paste. When this type of doctor's error occurs, the outcome may range from inconsequential to catastrophic.

If the same message is pasted for multiple days by one doctor, a different doctor may believe a treatment not working and mistakenly order a new and unnecessary treatment. Alternatively, if they think a treatment has not been ordered they may order a duplicate.

One study of the problem used a software program to review doctor's notes and found, "For the residents, 82% of the notes contained 20% or more copied text, while 74% of attending doctors' notes also exceeded that rate of copying and pasting."

One doctor commented, "It's an epidemic." There are various solutions proposed but they all have issues. One doctor suggests getting rid of the current system entirely and replacing it with a Wikipedia-like system, but as with any area of human behavior, changing engrained habits is difficult.

Even simple behavioral changes, like increasing the regularity of doctor's hand washing to prevent the spread of infection, have proven difficult. If you have been subjected to medical negligence due to this type of doctor's error, you should contact an attorney to help with your claim.

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O'Brien Batten & Kirtley, PLLC

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