The government-backed movement toward electronic medical records and the adoption of other advances in information technology in hospitals, doctor’s offices and health care facilities in New York and around the country might not be proceeding as smoothly as had been expected. Reports are now surfacing about wrong-site surgery and, in some cases, fatal medical error incidents occurring because of electronic health record systems being down.

A news report about doctors and hospital officials denying responsibility and shying away from offering apologies to patients who were victims of a doctor error or a surgical error has drawn attention to a little-known cause of medical malpractice. According to the report, medical mistakes have been attributed to the inability of doctors to access electronic patient records at critical stages during treatment. It is claimed that a surgical error occurred in the case of one patient when doctors did not have access to electronically stored X-rays when the system went down during a procedure.

Getting an accurate picture of the scope of the problem posed by interruptions in the availability of electronic medical records due to system malfunctions is difficult under current the oversight currently in place. The reporting system that is now being used is a voluntary one that leaves it up to hospitals and health care facilities to voluntarily report system errors.

Until there are regulations enacted to require mandatory reporting of medical errors linked to failures in electronic patient record systems, patients who believe they might have suffered injuries from medical malpractice might benefit from consulting with an attorney. Reviewing the facts with an attorney might provide answers to questions a patient has about a worsened medical condition.