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Copy-paste of records may endanger patients

A recent study found that many doctor and hospital errors regarding patient information may be due to a bad and widespread habit: copying and pasting old information into electronic records. Because so many hospitals and doctors' offices are cutting staff in an attempt to keep costs low, record keeping can be plagued by shortcuts. One of the most potentially dangerous practices is that of copying out-of-date information into new notes, which often occurs during the transfer of material into electronic format.

This result is the opposite of what was intended when electronic medical records were introduced. Supporters of digital formats claimed that transferring information into computerized data would create searchable databases to streamline the diagnostic process and cut down on errors. However, reality has shown that the move to electronic media may actually, in some cases, cause errors or slow the process of data transfer down.

The study utilized software normally used for detecting plagiarism by students was repurposed to examine five months of medical records from an intensive care unit at a Cleveland hospital. Researchers found that 82 percent of the notes taken by residents and 74 percent of the notes by doctors included at least 20 percent copied material from other sources. This means that doctors and residents are simply importing old records rather than reviewing the notes for accuracy, a practice that could lead to serious errors in patient care.

Patients who have suffered physical or emotional injury from hospital errors, case mismanagement or medication mistakes may have grounds to collect damages from healthcare professionals or organizations. A medical malpractice attorney can discuss with patients their rights and remedies under the law.

Source: Fox News, "Copying old information common in electronic medical records, study finds," Jan. 8, 2013

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