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Can Technology Guard Against Birth Injuries?

Two relatively new technologies that may assist in complicated deliveries are electronic medical records (EMRs) and electronic fetal monitors (EFM). As with most health advancements, these technologies do not eliminate the risk of birth injuries or fetal distress, but they may help to assist doctors and reduce the chance of serious harm from a medical mistake.

Use of Electronic Medical Records Can Save Babies, Study Reports

The first medical technology to show improved results is EMRs. Electronic records are being used at hospitals throughout the country to track and record a patient's history. In a Journal of Political Economy study, it was reported that a 10 percent increase in the use of EMRs would save 16 babies for every 100,000 live births.

Nationally, the study reported that EMRs would have the potential to save 6,400 infants each year. The basis for the increase in lives saved is attributed to the ease of recording neonatal ultrasounds, test results and other important health records. It is the simple use that encourages doctors and other medical professionals to routinely review the EMR to evaluate a fetus's health and developmental progress.

The irony is that many studies have shown EMRs either increasing or having no effect on medical errors in adults. In some studies, there is a greater risk for error when a hospital relies on EMRs because the medical professionals rarely consult with one another, leading to an increased risk of surgical error or medication error.

That's not the case for infant and delivery care in most cases. EMRs, however, do not prevent deaths caused by hereditary diseases, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or hospital accidents.

Electronic Fetal Monitors During Labor May Help Prevent Fetal Distress

In most hospitals, a woman will be hooked up to an EFM at the time of delivery. The EFM tracks the fetal heart rate via ultrasound technology. The goal is to allow doctors, nurses and other medical professionals assisting with the delivery to assess the heart health of the baby. An increased heart rate could signal serious fetal distress.

While tracking the fetal heart rate isn't a perfect solution because it may increase the risk of unnecessary labor intervention such as C-sections, a new 2011 study in the American Obstetrics and Gynecology Journal showed positive results. Of the more than 1 million live births analyzed, the use of the EFM contributed to a much lower rate of cerebral palsy and other illnesses, as well as neonatal death.

Health care information technology (IT) and other medical technological advancements will not prevent all birth injuries. Each year, thousands of babies are harmed by their doctor during the labor process, resulting in cerebral palsy, shoulder injuries and other brain injuries. For more information about legal remedies after a birth injury, contact The Birth Injury Team, a subsidiary of Silvers, Langsam & Weitzman, P.C.


Located in Philadelphia, Silvers, Langsam & Weitzman, P.C., home of MyPhillyLawyer, serves clients in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, and throughout the United States.

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