Issues related to converting to electronic medical records is one faced by hospitals around the world. As a New York medical malpractice lawyer I understand that there are two sides to this issue. On the one hand, electronic records are more portable and easily accessible. Multiple doctors can use them and can highlight treatments or conflicting medications. Paper files seem like a thing of the past, as we become more and more dependant on our smart phones and tablet computers. But there is another side to this discussion: the possible easy manipulation of these electronic records. According to news reports, some hospitals are already dealing with severe electronic record manipulation problems.
A hospital in Canberra, Australia’s capital city, is facing this now. An executive at the hospital admitted to manipulating Emergency Department records to make the wait times and stays appear shorter than they actually were. This guilty executive told the Director-General of the Health Directorate that he had made 20 to 30 changes to hospital records every single day since late 2010. He has been suspended without pay and the matter has been referred to the police. Initially outsiders suspected this manipulation of records was due to concerns about his job security. However, now questions are being raised about pressure from hospital administrators involving “managerial pressure” to improve publicly reported statistics about the hospital.
That it was seemingly easy for this executive to manipulate the records in relation to hospital performance begs the question of how easy it might be to manipulate data to cover up medical errors and thus deny legal recourse to the injured patient or the family.
The investigators from the firm PricewaterhouseCoopers were hired to look into this situation by the Health Directorate. In total, the investigators found that 11,700 records, about six percent of the total records stored by this hospital’s iSOFT (a common electronic health records software) Emergency Department Information Solutions (EDIS) had been altered.
That is an extremely alarming statistic. The executive at issue only admitted to small specific changes, but in light of this investigation it is believe many more hospital staff members manipulated the records and, thus far, have not been caught. Medical malpractice lawyers understand the potential long-term problems this case illustrates in relation to all electronic records systems.
IT security failures are largely to blame for these problems. Poor controls such as generic logins and insufficient password security made it all too easy for numerous people to alter the records. At this hospital there were only 23 user accounts created for the EDIS, and only eight were in regular use. Of those eight, half were generic administrator accounts called: CLERK, NURSE, DOCTOR, and BEDMAN. These generic accounts could be used by people across the hospital and the passwords for each were extremely easy and never changed.
As hospital and medical care facilities across the country begin shifting to electronic records is goes without saying that these issues will grow in importance.
Are you worried that electronic medical records may be manipulated too easily? Are you concerned about hospital be changes to sweep New York medical malpractice evidence under the rug?
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