According to a recently published report from the Institute of Medicine, computerized medical records may present a safety risk to patients. The report stated, “Designed and applied inappropriately, [electronic medical records] can add an additional layer of complexity to the already complex delivery of health care, which can lead to adverse consequences.” The Department of Health and Human Services requested that the Institute of Medicine investigate, because physicians and public health experts have expressed concern that electronic medical records systems could cause technology-related patient care errors.
Over the past decade, the number of institutions and healthcare providers utilizing electronic medical records has increased dramatically. Additionally, the Obama administration is encouraging hospitals and doctors to switch from paper records to electronic ones by 2015, and is investing billions of dollars to encourage providers to make the switch.
Proponents of electronic medical records argue that they improve patient care, and reduce healthcare costs. In its report, however, the Institute of Medicine pointed out several potential problems associated with electronic medical records, such as computer glitches, and systems that do not adequately communicate with ones manufactured by other companies. (One physician who I know extremely well absolutely hates using electronic medical records. He believes that electronic medical records actually take longer to fill out, because you are required to type a long narrative if a patient’s problems are not listed in the dropdown boxes. He also pointed out that it takes a long time for providers to get accustomed to using the electronic medical records programs. This physician prefers doing it the old fashioned way – taking handwritten notes, and then dictating a report.)
The Institute of Medicine’s investigators recommended that an independent agency, similar to the National Transportation Safety Board, be established, in order to investigate whether providers are using electronic medical records appropriately. Accordingly to some recent studies, electronic medical records have improved patient safety, although there have been instances where their use has resulted in patient harm and errors.
You can find Institute of Medicine’s report here: http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2011/Health-IT-and-Patient-Safety-Building-Safer-Systems-for-Better-Care.aspx
You may also read more about the report here: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/09/technology/federal-panel-emphasizes-safety-in-push-for-digital-health-records.html?_r=1