4 lesser known problems with EHRs

Although the healthcare industry continues to transition from paper to electronic health records, many patients and even some providers remain unaware of their imperfections, according to a recent post in the Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch.

The article, which outlines "10 things your medical records won't say" flags several problems endemic to EHRs that have received a lot of media attention, such as high costs and physicians' dissatisfaction with the systems.

However, several of the problems noted have received less attention and are not readily apparent, especially to consumers. Some of these include:

  • It can be easier to make mistakes with an EHR: Industry insiders may know that EHR functionalities designed to make documentation easier--such as copy and paste or automatic template completion--can create unintended consequences that can impact patient safety. However, that has not received much attention in mainstream media.
  • EHRs increase the risk of patient identity theft: While there's always the possibility that a rogue employee or burglar can steal paper patient records for nefarious purposes, it's much easier to steal a greater number of records when they're in electronic form; hackers can even do so remotely, without a provider even being aware of the theft.
  • It's more likely that a stranger will be in the exam room: While many providers are turning to scribes to help them document into the EHR so they can spend more time interacting with patients, it turns out that many patients don't expect it and don't like having a third person, typically a stranger, in the exam room with them.
  • The patient data will be mined and tracked by others: Commercial entities, such as pharmaceutical companies, in certain instances use the information to market their products; often the patients can be re-identified even if the data stripped the identifying information before being sold. Moreover, the government monitors the information in registries and databases, providing it with access to patients' sensitive medical information.      

To learn more:
- read the article