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Is Healthcare Technology Affecting Medical Malpractice?

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Medical technology is a primary driver of health policy today as it impacts cost, access and quality. In addition, technology is also influencing medical malpractice. While technical innovations in healthcare can help improve medical diagnoses and treatment, it can also malfunction and cause issues.

According to Jacoby & Meyers personal injury lawyers, more than 100,000 people are injured or killed by medical errors each year in the United States, and some of the more common errors include:

  • Birth injuries
  • Surgical errors
  • Prescription dosage errors
  • Anesthesia errors
  • Failure to diagnose
  • Delays in treatment
  • Emergency room negligence

If you are involved in a medical malpractice lawsuit, healthcare technology may even play a part in settling your case.

Benefits of Medical Technology

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Patients and healthcare providers have a positive view of medical technology as advances in that area have led to better understanding of conditions, diagnosis and treatment. Healthcare providers find that they have more time with patients and rural areas are receiving better healthcare as technology provides them with better access to care.

Procedures using technology are often simplified, which increases productivity and more focused care. Human error is reduced, including filing and recordkeeping errors that could lead to devastating consequences.

Risks of Medical Technology

Although medical technology does offer many benefits, it also brings a new set of risks. While healthcare professionals are learning to use new electronic systems, errors can occur and those errors could be dangerous.

Although technology can curb some areas of human error, people still make mistakes with technology. A typographical error that results in a decimal in the wrong place for a prescription order could be deadly or the incorrect information entered in a patient’s medical record may result in treatments that are not necessary.

Impact on Medical Malpractice

Many experts claim that technology could reduce the incidence of medical malpractice as human error is less common using electronic methods. However, technology could also assist with a medical malpractice case.

With an electronic record, there is more documentation available that could be used to verify an error. In the past, attorneys had to rely on recalled telephone or in-office conversations. Today, email, electronic records, patient portals, and other technology provide a digital record that may be used in court.

Technology Malfunctions

Another area where medical malpractice could be impacted by technology is when that technology malfunctions. Because technology includes machinery with moving components, electronic circuitry, and other mechanical parts, they can malfunction.

A programming error in a CT scan could lead to a misdiagnosis or the failure of a treatment device could lead to further injury. Medical technology is recalled every day with software often causing the recall. If a patient receives an incorrect diagnosis due to technology, they could miss treatments that are life-saving.

Technology and Healthcare Providers

Although technology can improve treatments and provide healthcare providers with more patient time, it can also have an adverse effect. Patients trust their doctors to diagnose and treat their illness or injury. When technology fails to diagnose or malfunctions so that it does not treat an illness but makes it worse, the patient loses trust not only in the technology but in the doctor as well.

Healthcare providers may become too reliant on technology and not heed their own knowledge and common sense. For example, if a patient’s symptoms clearly indicate a serious illness but results from medical technology claim there is no illness, the healthcare provider needs to trust their own intuition and repeat that test or run others that could reveal an issue. Failure to do so may increase the likelihood of a malpractice claim.

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