Doctors Ignore Electronic Warnings

Electronic medical records are becoming the norm in all medical facilities.  These records are helpful because they standardize information between medical providers.  They also come with built-in warnings to alert doctors when there is a potential problem.  The warnings might be because certain drugs entered into the record may have a bad interaction with one another.  Another type of warning, for example, might be a notice of a patient’s allergies.  This technology has the potential for saving lives and improving patient safety.

A new study, conducted by Shobha Phansalkar, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, shows that often, doctors ignore electronic warnings.  She estimates that doctors ignore electronic warnings between 49 and 96 percent of the time.  The doctors claim that they ignore electric warnings because the sheer number of the warnings makes sorting out what ones are important too difficult, so they just ignore them.  This condition is known as alert fatigue, and it has the potential to harm patients.  Recently, at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, a doctor ignored relevant information about how a patient might respond to a drug, and prescribed a drug that induced a potentially lethal reaction.

It seems ironic that a system designed to improve safety is actually causing instances of medical negligence, but if doctors continue to ignore electronic warnings, that is exactly the result one can expect.  They are attempting to make the warnings more relevant, so that doctors won’t be tempted to ignore them, but for now, it remains a problem.  If you feel that you or a loved one has been put in a situation where your doctors might have missed a warning and you have suffered harm, please call The O’Keefe Firm for a free consultation.