Healthcare News & Insights

Could your EHR also be a health hazard?

The healthcare industry is pushing providers to digitize their records, but can electronic health record (EHR) systems pose threats to patients’ health in addition to their privacy? 

ThinkstockPhotos-166842063Despite the potential benefits of EHR systems for recordkeeping and billing, they may not be creating complete or accurate profiles of patient information, which can endanger patients, says a new article published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association (JAMIA).

Graphing inconsistencies

Researchers from several medical schools evaluated eight EHR systems’ graph displays of lab test results based on 11 criteria for clarity and accuracy, such as graph titles, axis scales and labels, etc.

Six of the researched EHRs were certified for health IT by the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC), another system was an EHR prototype and the last system was the EHR used by the Department of Veteran Affairs Health System.

Unfortunately, results across the board were disheartening. None of the EHRs met all 11 criteria, and three systems only met five. The biggest issue was a lack of standardization among the graphs in terms of how they were constructed and labeled.

These incomplete displays of patient information can then adversely affect patient outcomes.

“Accurate display and interpretation of clinical laboratory test results is essential for patient safety,” noted the researchers. “EHR-generated graphs often provide important diagnostic clues …”

The lack of standardization is especially problematic as more providers try to coordinate care with their care partners and improve data sharing between EHRs. Without standardized graphs, providers and their partners may face even more patient safety and interoperability issues as they try to meet patients’ care needs in a variety of situations.

Smart shopping around

The results of the study were particularly concerning for researchers because the Food and Drug Administration has suggested that EHRs don’t require additional oversight. That means these inconsistencies among EHRs may not be addressed anytime soon.

So until the ONC ensures accurate visual displays of test data through its EHR certification process, the burden will be on providers to compensate for these graphing issues.

The study results highlight the importance of shopping around and comparing EHRs before implementing them into your operations.

If your facility is considering changing or purchasing an EHR and haven’t considered systems’ graphing capabilities in the past, now may be the time to add this function to your list of research criteria.

It’s also important that your facility’s physicians and clinical staff be aware of these potential inaccuracies, and understand the quirks of your hospital’s EHR, as well as your care partners’ systems. Thorough training on using and reading graphs generated by your facility’s and partners’ EHRs may be one potential solution to this issue.


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