Healthcare News & Insights

Patient photos in EHRs could reduce medical errors, study says

One recent study found that including patients’ photos in their electronic health records could reduce the risk of some errors that threaten patient safety. 

Although electronic health records (EHRs) help reduce many types of mistakes, they don’t eliminate all medical errors. One mistake that might be made while using electronic records: putting a test or treatment order into the wrong chart.

For example, a doctor might have multiple records open at the same time and may add something to one person’s chart thinking it was someone else’s.

In 2009, Children’s Hospital Colorado found that was the second most common cause of patients receiving care that wasn’t meant for them. The solution: The hospital configured the EHR system so that any order for a test or treatment triggered an “order verification screen” that displayed a photo of the patient. That could immediately alert the doctor if the wrong chart was open.

The move paid off, according to a report published in the journal Pediatrics. In 2010, there were 12 incidents in which one child received care that was intended for another. The following year, after the photos were integrated into the verification process, that number dropped to three — and in all three of those cases, the child in question didn’t have a photo in the record.

In addition, the hospital had 33 “near-misses” of that type of incident in 2010, and just 10 in 2011.

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