EHR System, A Major Technology Let-Down in the US Medical History
Electronic revolution, rather aptly called e-revolution, has taken the whole world by storm in the past two decades. Irrespective of the sector, it has dug its grassroots as strong as a bull. All the traditional systems have taken an e-makeover to fit into a contemporary style. Banking, shopping, eating, traveling and all other major sectors have taken the radical shift to an evolutionary upgradation. While rapidity at work, the requirement of less labor and quick results are the key factors contributing to its ongoing gaga, there has been a cacophony. On the other hand, that technology and the so-called e-records are making blunders and putting human beings at irksome situations.
The medical field is the foremost victim of this trend called Digitalisation according to some surveys. The contribution of technology in disease diagnosis, immunization dates, x-rays, scans, radiology images and research of medicines is exemplary. However, certain practices like the implementation of EHRs (Electronic Health Records) by developed nations like the USA and the medical malpractices that happen are raising a question if e-records can ever be believed. The decision of the Federal government to turn American Medical Charts into electronic records was to provide quality health care to its citizens.
However, the system that was supposed to be the road for change for better turned out to be a plethora of massive malfunction. EHRs are a digital version of the traditional physical copy of patients. They are the database of the patients who visit a specific place or within a facility like a clinic or a doctor’s office. It contains all the information about a patient’s medical condition and helps doctors in having a quick review of the past and present health condition.
Compared to traditional paper-based records, EHRs have multiple advantages like they let doctors track data over time and identify and treat patients based on tested parameters thus resulting in quality care. There are some investigations done by Fortune and Kaiser Health news showing alarming news stating huge failure of the software because of which patients reached dangerous situations like loss of life. There were cases registered by patients’ family on the physicians and the health centers they worked in.
To indicate the ongoing trauma of the patients and their families, the investigators gave an example of a patient, who had been suffering from Migraine for years since 2012 and had been admitted in a health center. Despite a couple of visits to the clinic she barely got any relief. She continued suffering and died of a brain aneurysm. The reports suggested no significant complications in her health condition, but her family worried why her health deteriorated so much so that she had to lose her life.
In a pretty panicking instance, the investigations that were carried out after her death revealed some interesting facts. The patient’s husband sued the health center for not properly diagnosing his wife, and with this, the new assistant US attorney had to get into the maze and untie the knots. The doctor had suspected bleeding in her brain and ordered a CT scan through the Clinic’s new software system. However, to everyone’s puzzle, it never identified the problem. The Health Information Technology introduced to improve health care quality, safety and efficiency now stand to be the major risk to patients’ lives.
The person investigating the case was alarmed and wanted to go in depth of the whole case and the software, which he thought was the ultimate culprit of the tragic event. Worried by the whole turnover of events, he was surprised at how software designed by a reputable brand, one of the leading sellers of record keeping software in the US used by nearly 8,50,000 medical practitioners can go wrong and put life at risk. His boss US Attorney general called the issue” Frontier of health care fraud,” and the case recovered the largest-ever financial recovery in Vermont.
This resulted in filing legal cases against the company, whose software failed and claimed the lives of trusted patients. In 2011, the findings of British police who turned to be EHR expert strengthened the investigations who discovered a whole lot of paring discrepancies between patients’ records and prescribed medications. He discovered that the complete system was a hotchpotch of uncoordinated services, the medical records were incorrect, medicines prescribed did not match, and there was every possibility of interchanging of one patient’s medicines to another. He also discovered that some of the medications prescribed did not have commence and ending dates which indicated heavy chances of under or over medication.
Also, he found that their lab results were also not reliable because of which he had filed a lawsuit against them. This caused District of Vermont to carry official federal investigation in 2015. This further advanced the case probing into keen areas like the software company not following standard drug codes and lab and diagnosis norms. All these led to the software company paying $1,55,000 million dollars as part of charges filed against them. Inspite of all these, they continued to admit their mistakes.
There are also reports of burnouts by doctors. Burnout can be defined in several ways. It is the eroding mental ability because of lack of interest, stability, and dignity at work. It results in emotional exhaustion that can lead to depression. This may completely devoid doctors of enthusiasm at work and compassion for patients. This might even affect nurses and other caretakers resulting in lack of quality medical care.
EMRs are supposed to offer better health care, in-depth diagnosis of diseases, empower patients with the right treatment and also help save them time and money. Instead of carrying all those bundles of papers in every visit, they can help patients and doctors to go through patients’ records in a jiffy. However, convenience apart, it started creating more problems complicating issues further. The Obama government invested as much as 36 billion dollars into the project, but ten years from the initialization, nothing has been accomplished to the desired level.