Blur of complicated mounds of medical records can lead to errors from lost information

LETTER — Posted Sept. 20, 2004

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Regarding "Communication problems often initiate 'cascades' of errors" (Article, Aug. 16): While the errors you discuss are certainly present, we should recognize that errors of this sort are not merely "communication" errors, but errors of "information transmission."

As the amount of information in each patient's medical record grows, including mounds of paper reflecting HMO referrals, coverage denials, UR review results, etc., in addition to clinical records, much of the important information becomes a blur, and inaccessible in the few minutes a primary care physician has to see a patient today.

Electronic medical records will make great improvements in this aspect of care, but not until even the smallest practices can afford to purchase a system, convert old records and train physicians and staff. Until all of the above is done, the errors will continue, patients will suffer and physicians will have much greater liability exposure.

Let's bring medicine into the 21st century and save lives as well as lawsuits.

Eric E. Shore, DO, Bala Cynwyd, Pa.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2004/09/20/edlt0920.htm.

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