European docs more confident than U.S. counterparts that EHRs improve patient safety

European doctors are more bullish on the ability of electronic health records to enhance patient safety than American doctors, according to a new survey from global doctor social network Sermo.

The survey, released Feb. 22, found that U.S. doctors were divided about whether EHRs helped or worsened patient safety. Of the 2,452 U.S. doctors polled, 27 percent reported that EHRs improved patient safety, 39 percent said they worsened it and 34 percent said safety had stayed the same. In contrast, 59 percent of the 1,592 physicians in Europe polled reported that EHRs improved patient safety, and 30 percent said safety was the same; only 11 percent thought that EHRs worsened patient safety.

The European countries in the poll included Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

In a related blog post to Sermo's website, it was noted the survey was prompted by the fact that there has been little consensus on whether EHRs positively or negatively impact patient safety.

"Recent studies have provided conflicting information about whether or not EHRs improve patient safety," the post reads. "One study, conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and published in the Journal of Patient Safety found that fully electronic health records ... lead to fewer adverse events such as hospital acquired infections. However, an analysis of a large malpractice claims and suits database maintained by CRICO, an evidence-based risk management group of companies owned by the Harvard medical community, found that there were 248 malpractice cases showing serious unintended consequences from the use of EHRs."

What's more, American doctors may be less positive about EHR-related patient safety than the results indicate, according to the post. Some of the concerns outlined included that EHRs were designed more for coding and billing rather than patient care; that they were distracting; that the copy and paste function resulted in overpopulation of data, making it difficult to find the meaningful information; and that EHRs decreased clinical efficiency.  

EHR-related patient safety incidents have been a long standing issue. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and others have been trying to address the problem and reduce adverse events attributable to the systems.

To learn more:
- read the blog post