EHR prompt nearly kills prison inmate

An inmate at a California correctional facility nearly received a lethal dose of heart medication last week at the prompting of a newly implemented electronic health record system. The system--from EHR vendor Epic--reportedly has caused multiple additional headaches for nurses since going live July 1, sparking a record number of complaints and a call for the system to "go away until it's fixed," the Contra Costa Times reported.

Contra Costa County officials had visions of seamless connectivity for the exchange of health records between the county's correctional facilities and Contra Costa Regional Medical Center, according to the newspaper. Instead, the $45 million system has been nothing but trouble, claim the nurses charged with its use. Jerry Fillingim, a labor representative for the nurses, told the Times that Epic was treating the county as its "guinea pig." 

"I have never, in all my time working with the California Nursing Association seen that many [complaints]," Fillingim told the newspaper of the 142 complaints filed in July alone. "Each day these nurses are fearful that they will kill somebody."

In addition to the aforementioned inmate who nearly received too much heart medication, appointments have been lost and access to vital patient information has been inaccessible. Lee Ann Fagan, a registered nurse at West County Detention Facility in Richmond, Calif., called the environment "dangerous" and "frustrating," and put some of the blame on inadequate training.

Participation in a pair of hour-long sessions in the months leading up to the go-live was the only practice given to the nurses, she said.

Regardless, Fagan added, the system wasn't installed well enough for practice at the time.

Poor training isn't just a problem limited to the county's nurses. Researchers from the Alliance for Clinical Education recently found that EHR training for medical students has been lacking, as well. Andres Jimenez, CEO of EHR training provider ImplementHIT, told Becker's Hospital Review in May that some of the problems that hospitals and practices are running into with EHR adoption stem from rushed and overwhelming training.

And last fall, a doctor in Lincoln, Ill., claimed that he was removed from his job at Family Medical Center of Lincoln after receiving improper training in the organization's health records system.

To learn more:
- here's the Contra Cost Times article