Imagine being a doctor or other medical professional in a hospital and suddenly becoming completely unable to access a patient's notes and charts. Imagine further a complete breakdown in a system that will suddenly not let you order necessary medical tests and drugs or even communicate with other doctors or staff members about a patient's condition.
That is precisely what happened at scores of hospitals across the United States for several consecutive hours last month when, on July 23, the electronic medical records system used by those hospitals simply bleeped out, leaving medical staff members involved with patients essentially in the dark concerning their condition, needs and other relevant information.
The implications of that, say critics, are staggering for medical malpractice, surgical error, mistakes in medication and other problems across the board at a hospital.
How could such a thing happen?
Commentators on medical technology say that there is both a positive and a down side associated with the advent of electronic health records that are rapidly becoming the norm in the medical industry. What happened last month clearly points clearly to the negative potential relating to a technology that is not yet thoroughly vetted or tested.
The snafu that occurred related to records kept remotely by Cerner Corp., a huge medical software company that more than 2,600 medical facilities around the world have employed to implement and store electronic medical files. The company isn't exactly sure what happened on July 23, nor was it prepared to deal with it. The outage lasted five hours, and Cerner's backup system didn't work as advertised.
Electronic medical record systems are unquestionably becoming the norm in the medical industry, rapidly replacing doctor's and nurses' handwritten notations.
Clearly, all is not smooth sailing just yet.
Source: Los Angeles Times, "Patient data outage exposes risk of electronic medical records," Chad Terhune, Aug. 3, 2012