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Could electronic medical records prevent future mistakes?

A recently released report by the Department of Health and Human Services shows that many hospitals are failing to report errors that caused harm to patients. Often, these errors are not recorded because hospital staff members are unaware of the parameters for reporting errors. When hospitals fail to report errors that caused harm to patients, they miss the chance to learn from their past mistakes.

Some say electronic medical records are the answer to prevent future errors. Electronic medical records can act as a surveillance system to alert doctors when mistakes have been made and to ensure that those errors are properly recorded.

Recently, a 12-year-old boy in a nearby state died after doctors failed to recognize a fatal bacterial infection. The boy was sent home from the emergency room. However, blood tests later indicated the seriousness of his condition. Because no one was alerted, the boy did not receive proper care. Had a computer system been in place, doctors could have been automatically made aware that the young boy needed additional care.

These kinds of stories are alarming. However, even more alarming, is the fact that many hospitals aren't doing all that they can to prevent medical errors. When errors are ignored, it is likely that the same mistakes will be made in the future.

Patients in Baltimore and beyond deserve top quality care by physicians and other medical professionals. When patients are harmed due to a medical professional's error, they should be held responsible. People in Baltimore who believe they are a victim of medical malpractice would be wise to consult with an experienced attorney to determine what legal options they have.

Source: USA Today, "HHS: Hospitals ignoring requirements to report errors," Kelly Kennedy, July 20, 2012

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