Ok – doctor or lawyer? I say lawyer and hope I don’t get sick!

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Ok – doctor or lawyer? I say lawyer and hope I don’t get sick!

I had to at least peek at an article authored by Lucas Mearian, simply because of the title, ‘Lawyers smell blood in electronic medical records‘, published in ComputerWorld. It appears that Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) is becoming a gold mine for lawyers. Unfortunately, bad news for patients. Judgements have reached over $7.5 million in some cases as the information contained in the EMRs could not be trusted.

The next target on the list for legal professionals is technology vendors. Medical malpractice has focused specifically on physicians and hospitals. Lawyers see another opportunity to expand medical malpractice to include the vendors who make the products used. Rather a sad state of affairs. According to Keith Klein, a medical doctor and professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, “there are attorneys now looking for a clean case to sue the vendor,” he said. “This is reality. It is not theoretical. I was approached by Washington, D.C. law firm who had a very clean case for suing a vendor.”

The issue is people and technology. The technology needs to be simplified and provide safeguards. Healthcare professionals need to be more careful when entering information into complex applications.

To highlight a few mistakes:

  • One recent lawsuit involved a patient who suffered permanent kidney damage when he was given an antibiotic to treat what was thought to be an infection resulting in elevated creatinine levels. The patient was also suffering a uric kidney stone, which precludes the use of the antibiotic. Because of the complexity of the EMR, none of the attending physicians noticed the kidney stone. Detracting from the EMR’s validity was the fact that a date related to a previous intravenous drip was repeated over and over on all 3,000 pages of the record.
  • In another case, the physician was accused of plagiarizing data entered from another healthcare provider because he copied and pasted basic patient information.
  • And the best for last, “We’ve seen 92-year-old women getting diagnosed as crack addicts because of drop down menus.”

The vendors of medical applications better wake up, or they may be next at the mercy of the lawyer’s hatchet. I would also strongly suggest that there is more stringent oversight on health care professionals.

Let’s just hope none of us get sick – or we have an excellent lawyer.