Healthcare News & Insights

Researchers: EHR data is often inaccurate

Electronic health records can help improve care and safety by giving doctors quick access to accurate information they need to make decisions. But if they aren’t used properly, EHRs can have a negative impact on patient safety.

That’s the warning from an article published in a recent issue of the Journal of the Medical Informatics Association.

One of the benefits of EHR systems is that they allow clinicians to analyze past data to look for patterns among a population in order to make predictions or determine the best treatments.

However, according to the Columbia University researchers behind the article, EHRs often contain inaccurate or missing data, and that can lead to poor decision making.

For example, the researchers cited one study conducted during a community-wide pneumonia outbreak. The study found that patients who were admitted and died quickly did not have their symptoms entered into the system, while those details were recorded for patients that survived. So it appeared as though the dead patients were healthier than those that lived.

Also, researchers said, facilities need to keep track of how and when information is recorded, as that could have an effect on the data and any patterns that are found. For example, patients admitted into hospitals at night tend to be sicker than those admitted during the day, so any data recorded should make a note those details.

The key to avoiding “naive” use of EHRs, researchers said, is understanding the potential for biases in data sets and using both common sense approaches and more detailed reporting to make better use of the data that’s recorded.

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