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The Surprising Result of a Study on EMR-Related Medical Errors

Posted by Lawrence Kerr on Wed, Apr 04, 2018 @ 06:00 AM

andrew-pons-6488-unsplashElectronic Medical Records are one of the most frustrating parts of every healthcare provider's day. 

EMRs are notorious for being difficult to use and to make do what you want, and they impinge on our ability to be present with patients. 

I think most healthcare providers instinctively feel that the EMR is, overall, a net negative in the way they care for their patients. But a new study has some surprising results that may shock any provider who uses an EMR intensively. 

The sense that Electronic Medical Records are taking a toll on medicine is one thing. But a team of researchers who published their results in JAMA recently decided to quantify that toll. The researchers looked at 1.7 million patient safety incidents reported to the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority and from a large multi-hospital academic medical center between 2013 and 2016. They were trying to codify whether the safety reports were linked directly to an issue of EMR usability. 

The results are surprising. As Fierce Healthcare summarizes, "The authors found just 0.11% of events explicitly mentioned an EHR vendor or product and just over 500 events (0.03%) includes language explicitly referencing EHR usability."

In other words -- barely any of the incident reports related to the EMRs being hard to use. 

When I read this, I furrowed my brow, not quite believing the results. The data was surprising, given my and my colleagues' felt experience with EMRs. We'd expected that many incidents would arise in one way or another from the EMRs' lack of usability.

The JAMA study defines Electronic Health Record (EHR) usability as "the extent that EHRs support clinicians in achieving their goals in a satisfying, effective, and efficient manner." Even reading that sentence puts a spotlight on current shortcomings. Few providers feel their EHR lives up to that standard. 

Sure, the study design may have created far too conservative a standard for linking the patient safety issues and EHRs. (The standard was that the vendor or product be mentioned by name, which may well be unlikely even if the EHR's usability contributed to a safety incident.) But what I found even more interesting was simply my reaction to the study. I was very surprised that there weren't more related safety incidents; in fact, even the study's authors seem incredulous at the results, trying to explain why they were so low: "Broadly, patient safety incidents are notoriously underreported, and the likelihood that a clinician would include the name of the EHR vendor tightens those parameters even farther."

Our tools are so difficult to use that we think they are putting our patients in danger -- this is sobering to realize. in contrast, we made iClickCare so intuitive, so visual, and so simple that anyone understands it easily, within seconds of opening the program. And that's not because we're better funded than the entrenched EMR vendors -- it's because we care and because we have a medical and a software background. 

It's time for us to demand more from the tools we use. And if your telemedicine platform or electronic health record isn't fully useable and supportive of your practice, it's time that you start demanding changes. 


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Tags: telemedicine solutions, healthcare collaboration software

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