Despite more than $30 billion of federal investment in health information technology over the past decade, the transition from paper to electronic health records has not reached its potential to enhance health care coordination and improve patient safety.
The inability of electronic health care record systems to easily share information with each other—known as interoperability—frustrates caregivers and their patients and raises serious safety concerns. Patients still tote their records and prescription bottles from a primary doctor’s office to specialists, and doctors still rely on patients’ memories for critical aspects of their health history. Better interoperability requires a nationwide approach to match patients to their records among the various doctor’s offices, hospitals, and specialists who care for them. It also requires standardization and reform of the ways health data are documented with electronic health records.
Along with interoperability challenges, the varied formats and designs of electronic health records can introduce unintentional safety problems. The lack of intuitive, easy-to-use interfaces—known as usability—can lead to data entry mistakes, such as recording the wrong patient, the wrong drug, or the wrong dosage. Doctors, hospitals, electronic health record vendors, and policymakers all have a role in identifying and addressing these usability challenges to advance the safety of health information technology.
Pew is conducting research to further quantify and illuminate these problems, and is convening stakeholder organizations to look for and advance solutions. Ultimately, Pew’s work will help realize the vision of health information technology, one where patients’ health information is accessible to them and their doctors, and the format of electronic health records does not raise the opportunity for unintended harm.
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Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston who are studying ways to improve the safety of cardiac stents and artificial joints have designed a system to track medical devices on insurance claim forms and detect problems with these products more quickly. The system documents in claims forms medical device identifiers, which indicate the manufacturer and model of a device used. Insurance... Read More
Electronic health records (EHRs) are intended to improve patient care, but usability issues—including both product design and how the technology fits into a clinician’s workflow—can place patients at risk. Some EHR systems, for example, have default dosage settings that have led to accidental overdoses. Others display only test results that have returned from the lab, not those... Read More
The 21st Century Cures Act, a major piece of federal health legislation passed in 2016, included provisions to address a widespread problem associated with electronic health records (EHRs): patient matching. Lacking a universal system for this, health care providers often have trouble linking patients to their records at the places where they have obtained care. Read More