The advent of electronic health record (EHR) systems to supplant paper records for patients in New Jersey and elsewhere across the country began in earnest several years ago with the federal government’s initiative to reward hospitals upgrading their charts and records with financial bonuses.

The relentless evolution toward a complete EHR regime across the United States has also been motivated, understandably, by a reciprocal component of the government’s push to modernize, namely, penalties imposed on facilities that are still relying on paper records come 2015.

Electronic health record systems have come with great fanfare and promises, most centrally assertions that they will help to reduce medication errors, cut back on surgical mistakes, improve diagnostic outcomes and generally enhance patient safety and provider communications in the medical industry.

Over the past few years, though, and as start-up growing pains have been manifest with implementation of the systems, a discernible downside has been on full display. Glitches have resulted in many dire outcomes, owing to things like drop-down menu snafus, delays caused by software malfunctions that have brought about untimely or incorrect patient information, unexplained EHR errors that result in incorrect drug dosing and other matters.

A recent FDA study chronicles many of these errors, and tandem reports from widely diverse sources across the country confirm them.

In short: The transition from paper to EHR technologies has been anything but smooth sailing, and there will certainly be additional and unfortunate stories that surface en route to the full implementation and effective functioning of upgraded electronic systems in all the nation’s medical facilities.

Source: Bloomberg, “Digital health records’ risks emerge as deaths blamed on systems,” Jordan Robertson, June 25, 2013