On November 9, 2011, I blogged about about the Institute of Medicine’s recent report concerning the potential hazards associated with electronic medical records. In short summary, the Institute of Medicine recommended that the federal government establish an agency to oversee and ensure that physicians and other healthcare providers utilize electronic medical records safely and appropriately.
A new report from AC Group, a Texas-based health IT research and consulting firm, provides further evidence that U.S. healthcare providers should slow down the implementation of electronic medical records. The reports’ authors concluded that rushing to implement the widespread use of electronic medical records unnecessarily exposes doctors and other healthcare providers to potential liability. The study’s authors concluded, “As is often the case, technology is advancing more rapidly than our ability to identify and address medicolegal issues. The result of this uneven progression is that physicians and other stakeholders may be unknowingly exposed to medical liability risk.”
In reaching this conclusion, the AC Group examined the electronic medical records systems utilized by over 42 practices and institutions, and found that the practices’ electronic medical records systems varied greatly. They also found almost 90% of those systems were unable to provide drug-lab alerts, and that over 80% of the systems examined did not have a system to prevent adverse drug interactions when patients had their prescriptions refilled. Additionally, a significant number of the systems examined failed to have other failsafe measures in place, such as comparing drug prescriptions with laboratory results.
The AC Group also found that many electronic medical records systems contain too many “normal” indicators, and often provide too much unnecessary data, which can prevent doctors and other healthcare providers from accessing usable information quickly or easily. The authors, in one case, found that an emergency room physician documented the care and treatment he rendered four hours after the fact. However, the electronic medical records system he used made it seem as if his notes were made contemporaneously with the treatment he provided.
I applaud the Obama administration for placing increasing importance on patient safety. However, by dangling the proverbial “carrot” in front of physicians in the form of economic incentives, without ensuring that electronic medical records systems are completely safe and actually enhance patient care, it may be doing more harm than good to the patient population.
Read the AC Group’s recent report here: http://www.acgroup.org/images/2011_White_Paper_-_Do_EHRs_Increase_Liability.pdf