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December 2012 Archives

Electronic health records do not solve hospital error issues

Advocates of the use of electronic health records contend that the digitalization of medical records can reduce hospital errors, but a recent study suggests that this may not be the case. The Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority Report examined almost 3,100 error reports from hospitals in the state to determine if there were mistakes related to electronic records. They found that nearly 4,000 errors were related to EHRs between 2004 and 2012.Most errors did not cause harm to patients, but 10 percent concerned unsafe conditions. Of the many reports reviewed, 15 involved temporary potential harmful situations for patients, such as erroneous medication data, failure to note allergies or failure to document test results. Problems were particularly noted in hospitals that used both paper and electronic records. The difficulty in using some electronic systems also contributed to errors.

75 percent of discharged patients have wrong meds

A new Yale study on medication errors found that three-quarters of all patients discharged from hospitals do not understand the instructions for taking the prescriptions or are given the wrong medications. The senior patients with heart problems or pneumonia were most likely to have issues, with 24 percent of them receiving a wrong prescription and 60 percent misunderstanding one or more medication changes.These mistakes can stem from misunderstandings on the part of patients due to poor communication or lack of education about the use of certain drugs. They can also come from poor communication between the provider and the pharmacy. For example, many physicians who change a patient's prescriptions fail to notify the pharmacy of the discontinuance of the old medication, thereby opening the door to overmedication errors.

Dialysis drug leads to wrongful death suit

A lawsuit based on an alleged medication error was filed against Fresenius, the company that produces GranuFlo and NaturaLyte, by the victim's widow. She claims that the drug company failed to adequately warn the public about adverse side effects such as sudden elevations in the bicarbonate level of the blood that can lead to heart attacks. The victim died after being given dialysis using one of the two drugs. The lawsuit seeks more than $75,000 in damages for claims including negligence and defective design.More than 900 patients have died while using one of the two dialysis drugs in question, prompting the company to send an internal memo to its dialysis centers in November of 2011. The memo states that doctors at these centers should adjust the dosages of these drugs so that metabolic alkalosis does not result.

Study shows that mammograms may lead to misdiagnoses

A new study shows that as many as one-third of all tumors revealed by mammograms may be benign, and focus on mammography may have resulted in the overdiagnosis of breast cancer in more than a million women in the past 30 years. However, avoiding mammograms may lead to failure to diagnose malignant cancers as well.The study purports that rising breast cancer survival rates are more likely due to improvements in treatment rather than screening. The author argues that the overuse of mammograms results in the identification of non-threatening tumors; these diagnoses then subject 70,000 women per year to needless surgery. The improvements in screening have led to the identification of previously missed tumors that, in the past, would have been left alone and would not have caused illness, according to the study. Detractors of the study claim that this theory is part of a campaign to cut back on screening tests in an effort to reduce healthcare costs.

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