CDC patience with errors from lab use of EHRs growing thin

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) increasingly is concerned about patient safety and other problems incurred by laboratories' use of electronic health records, according to an analysis in Healthcare IT News.

In an interview with Megan Sawchuk, lead health scientist for CDC's Office of Public Health Scientific Services, in the Division of Laboratory Programs, Standards and Services, she decried the lack of involvement by clinicians in the development of the systems.

"End users are not yet sufficiently involved in the early stages of EHR design, including innovation in display design and workflow analysis, and that creates problems with their ability to effectively understand and use the information," Sawchuk said

Other problems with EHRs she highlighted include:

  • Hospitals' use of outdated software
  • Lack of consistent codes for the same tests
  • No central data repository to report "near misses"

The CDC issued a report in May recommending that lab professionals contribute their expertise in EHR design, development and implementation. The report also suggested that lab professionals and organizations can be more educated about EHRs and more engaged in improving the overall quality of healthcare.

Perhaps ironically, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) introduced a bill (H.R. 1309) in March 2013 that would exclude pathologists from the incentives and penalties of the Meaningful Use program. The bill, which has 31 cosponsors, is currently sitting in committee.

It's been well known for years that EHRs can adversely affect patient safety. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT is currently in the process of creating a health IT safety center to reduce these risks.

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