When you go to a hospital, health care professionals record any diagnosis or treatment you undergo in an electronic health record system, or EHR. This system lets anyone who treats you access your records, ensuring that they know your history and recommendations for your care. But does an online database decrease your risk of medical errors?

While hospitals have used EHR systems for some time, a new study has found that they may not be doing a good job at preventing human error. Despite advances in technology, mistakes may still happen 33% of the time with electronic record-keeping.

EHR systems have taken over medical filing

Since technology has improved and expanded filing opportunities, hospitals have switched to entering medical records on an electronic system. Administrators have expected computer-based software to help them streamline record-keeping while avoiding human errors with paper files.

Technology for safety increases may not be fully developed

But in a long-term study of hospitals across the country, researchers found that EHR systems let a third of mistakes get through. By testing the systems with simulations of real-life scenarios, the study analyzed how the databases would respond to actual errors that had caused life-threatening issues. After nine years of research, the success rate from the simulations only rose from 54% to 66%.

Errors in record-keeping can affect a patient’s health

You go to a hospital expecting to get treatment that makes you better. But when health care professionals don’t pay close attention to your medical history, you may face avoidable, life-threatening issues. Medication errors, a lack of diagnosis, or improper treatment can all come from errors in how doctors document or examine your records.

While EHRs can be a tool to help catch mistakes, they may not provide a system to rely on. Hospitals and health care workers still need to stay alert to prevent serious errors.