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Advancements in Medical Technology Can Cause More Harm Than Good for Patients


The explosion of advancements in health care have produced profound benefits for both providers and patients, but there have been some developments that bring a downside for quality care. Physician workflows have changed in unexpected ways as they transition to electronic medical records (EMRs) and other solutions, so there are some adverse implications with increased computerization in the practice of medicine.

One issue of particular concern is the alert systems that are built into EMRs, computerized provider order entry systems (CPOEs) and related technology. The US Department of Health & Human Services describes a phenomenon termed as “alert fatigue,” which presents a disturbing irony given that the point of these features is reducing the risk of medical mistakes. You can learn more by talking to a Florida doctor errors attorney, and read on for an overview. 

Definition of Alert Fatigue: The term is used in connection with many other industries, but in the context of health care, alert fatigue describes how physicians and other providers become desensitized to alarms set by the solutions they use regularly. A doctor, nurse, or practitioner may ignore the notification or not respond in appropriate fashion. The phenomenon is a combination of two factors:

  1. The number of alerts can be extreme
  2. Many of the alerts are not medically consequential

With respect to either issue, providers may be justified in ignoring them. The problem – and threat to patient care – is when the nurse or physician disregards both the meaningless alarms AND those of grave importance. It’s a conundrum to realize that a technology feature intended to prevent harm can actually compound it through alert fatigue.

Alert Fatigue in the Clinical Environment: In the hospital setting, health care providers are more likely to ignore warnings issued by CPOE, such as technology assessing vital signs, intravenous infusion pumps, or cardiac monitoring devices. The environment may encompass multiple different solutions, all of which are sounding alerts regarding various patient events. Some are informational in nature, but others are meant to inform physicians of unsafe situations that they need to act on. When they don’t respond, the patient can suffer severe injuries. 

Alerts in EMR Solutions: Making medical records available across multiple providers electronically means all practitioners can access patient information at a glance, without having to request them and wait for the paperwork to arrive. EMRs are also effective at reg flagging patient issues, by alerting the doctor about drug interactions, medical history, previous procedures, allergies, and others. When a physician suffers from alert fatigue, this important information may slip through the cracks, threatening patient safety.

Relay Your Concerns to a Florida Doctor Errors Lawyer 

It’s concerning that technology developed to improve safety is actually increasing the potential for medical mistakes, but patients are at risk when practitioners fall into the trend of alert fatigue. If you have concerns about the implications for yourself or a loved one, please contact our Miami doctor error lawyers at Freidin Brown, P.A. to discuss them. We can schedule a consultation at our offices to review your circumstances.


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