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Medical record errors are common, hard to fix, report finds

Written by Julie Spitzer | December 10, 2018 | Print  | Email

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Patients often struggle to have errors in their medical records corrected, according to a recent CNBC report.

About 70 percent of patient records have wrong information, sociologist Ross Koppel, PhD, told CNBC.

For one patient — 20-year-old Morgan Gleason — the errors in her medical record claimed she had twice given birth and was diabetic. But she's never been pregnant, nor been diagnosed with diabetes, she told CNBC.

When Ms. Gleason tried to have her records corrected, the hospital insisted she was wrong, she said. In fact, the hospital told Ms. Gleason that if she hadn't given her physician the information, it wouldn't have been in her chart in the first place. It wasn't until Ms. Gleason made a written request for a correction of her record that changes were made.

Most errors don't affect health outcomes, but some mistakes can be dangerous or even fatal. CNBC cited a study from Johns Hopkins that found more than 250,000 people in the U.S. die every year from medical mistakes. Other studies estimate the number to be upwards of 400,000.

Dr. Koppel, affiliated with Philadelphia-based University of Pennsylvania, suggested patients have a hard time getting corrections made because physicians don't like to admit wrongdoing for fear they may be sued. He said patient distrust can also lead to misinformation in their records, and that the U.S. needs stronger standards for properly matching patients with their medical record.

When asked her thoughts on tech companies like Apple or Amazon getting into the medical records business, Ms. Gleason said patients should be cautious."I hope that companies in tech don't start looking at the text in physician notes and making determinations without a human or someone who knows my medical history very well," she told CNBC. "I'm worried about more errors."Type your paragraph here.