Last week, we discussed an article which reported that an online public database maintained by the Department of Public Health contained incorrect information regarding the malpractice histories of some Connecticut doctors. Since then, the department has reportedly identified what caused this problem and has fixed it. This incident brings up some interesting issues regarding the increasing use of computers in connection to medical matters.
An official from Connecticut’s Department of Public Health confirmed that a mistake caused their online doctor profiles to display incorrect malpractice histories for some doctors. The official claimed that the mistake occurred because of an automated process the department used when they switched to a new system.
The official stated that the department has corrected this mistake. The department had electronic files containing the doctor information that was used for the profiles. These files were not affected by the computer error. Because of these files, the incorrect profiles were able to be manually changed to reflect the correct information.
This case involved public electronic records that were used to document information about doctors. However, as we discussed in a past post, medical facilities also are increasingly using electronic records to document patient information. This indicates that computers and electronic records are increasingly becoming a part of the medical system in America.
This incident illustrates a problem that can arise in connection to this increased use of electronic records. Computer errors can sometimes cause electronic information to be altered or even lost. These kinds of errors can have a major impact when they affect medical-related records.
In the case of the Department of Public Health’s database, the mistake could have caused patients to make decisions regarding their choice of doctor based on incorrect information. However, this kind of mistake could have even greater consequences if it happens to a hospital’s electronic records. If an error caused a patient’s electronic records to contain wrong information, it could result in mistakes being made regarding a patient’s care and treatment.
Thus, this incident demonstrates that care needs to be taken when an organization maintains electronic records regarding medical matters. Efforts should be made to ensure that computer mistakes don’t cause medical records to contain incorrect information. Also, organizations should consider keeping back-ups of medical records in case such an error does occur.
Source: The Hartford Courant, “Missing Malpractice Data Back On Doctors’ Database,” Matthew Kauffman, 14 Jan 2011