Infant’s Death From Drug Overdose Highlights Risks of Increasing Reliance on Electronic Health Records


Genesis Burkett, a premature baby born 16 weeks early, recently died from a massive overdose of sodium chloride. The cause of the medical error was traced to a pharmacy technician using an electronic health records system who typed the wrong information into a field on the screen causing an automated machine at the infant's hospital to prepare an intravenous solution containing a dose of sodium chloride that was more than 60 times greater than the amount ordered by a physician. When the intravenous was administered to Genesis, the infant's heart stopped, and he died.

The fact that the tragedy originated with a piece of data entered inaccurately into a computer program highlights the risks associated with electronic health records. While there are certainly benefits to electronic health records, there are also potential problems. Hospital computers can crash, and software bugs can delete, jumble or misplace data. Different electronic systems in different hospitals may not be able to communicate. And sometimes alerts built into electronic healthcare systems are ignored because they are so frequent and often are not especially useful.

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