How to eliminate EHR-based medical errors
Electronic health record (EHR) systems are part of most physicians’ lives, but unfortunately, so is the risk of medical errors caused by software glitches or poor programming.
Further reading: Should physicians share their notes with patients?
A discussion at the HIMSS 2017 conference in Orlando, Florida, led by Josh Rising of the Pew Charitable Trusts highlighted some of the errors witnessed by audience members—along with potential solutions to make EHRs better and safer for all.
Some of the EHR-based problems discussed included:
· The system switched the dosages between two drugs—one for birth control, one for asthma—for a patient. In another case, an infant’s weight changed dramatically, but the system did not adjust dosage like it was supposed to.
· Important lab results returned with no warning that immediate action was needed.
· Discharge instructions printed with a decimal-place error for a dosage of insulin.
· Duplicate records for patients, resulting in an incomplete view of the medical history.
· Print outs that contain IT gobbledygook that neither patients or doctors understand, which can be problematic in malpractice cases when a doctor can’t explain the data the system spits out.
· Scanned documents assigned to the father instead of the son.
· Action items that were put into the EHR that never went anywhere, resulting in missed treatments.
With so many problems, Rising facilitated a discussion among physicians, hospital leaders, EHR vendors and patient advocates on what could be done to eliminate the issues. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) is examining the idea of a collaborative that would recommend best practices by bringing all the stakeholders to the table to understand why things go wrong and what can be done to fix them to avoid medical errors.