Analysis

Webinar Panel Urges More Testing, New Center to Improve Safety of Electronic Health Records

Pharmacist at computer

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More collaboration among the government, hospitals, and vendors of electronic health records (EHRs) is needed to address common safety problems, three EHR experts concluded in an Oct. 5 webinar hosted by Pew.

Although doctors and hospitals are increasingly using the EHRs, design flaws in these systems can pose risks to patients. For example, doctors might give patients the wrong dose of a medication if they are unaware that the system prescribes medication in milligrams per kilogram instead of simply milligrams. Or they may inadvertently click on the wrong patient record.

Andrew Gettinger, director of clinical quality and safety at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, urged the creation of an organization to study health IT safety issues. Josh Rising, director of health care programs at Pew, agreed. The organization, he said, could serve as a clearinghouse for reporting problems with these records and issuing guidance to hospitals and EHR vendors on ways to address them. Webinar participants urged that more testing be done to improve the safety of these records, both as systems are developed and when health care facilities put them into use.

The broad implementation of EHRs has created more awareness of their safety risks, said Peter Pronovost, director of the Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “Unfortunately, the concern is far greater than we had initially anticipated.”

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