A Pennsylvania study has revealed an increase in the number of errors associated with the use of electronic health records. Between 2004 and 2011, hospitals in that state reported 3,099 total incidents related to faulty electronic health records. Of those, 1,142 occurred in 2011. That was nearly double the total reported for 2010. The data did indicate that the vast majority of the errors did not lead to patient harm.
Nearly half of the errors concerning EHR involved health professionals entering the wrong input into the system. An additional 18 percent involved the failure to update the data in the systems when different information was listed somewhere else, including in paper records. Other errors involving EHR included devices not working, errors in the display of the records, incorrect records appearing on the screen, missing data, lost data, alert failures and incorrect system configuration. According to the program director at Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority, the errors were largely the product of the way medical staff used the records, as opposed to failures of the technology itself. He indicated that those were the same problems that had affected paper records for years.
The Department of Health and Human Services recently proposed a plan focused on tracking and fixing the safety problems that stem from electronic health records. The plan is currently in the public comment period. The final version of the plan is expected sometime after February 4.
Source: amednews.com, "EHR-related errors soar but few harm patients," by Kevin B. O'Reilly, 14 January 2013