Experts: Use patients to reduce errors in electronic records

Giving patients better access to their electronic health records is not only part of Stage 2 of Meaningful Use. It's also an effective way to improve the quality of the data, according to a panel of experts who spoke on a recent webinar hosted by the National e-health Collaborative, a public-private partnership established by a grant from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) to foster national health information exchange (HIE).

"You can't proofread your own stuff. You have to have a second pair of eyes," said speaker Dave deBronkart, co-chair of the Society for Participatory Medicine.

DeBronkart pointed out that patients often catch mistakes in their medical records. He likened bad data to an infectious disease, which spreads like "crazy" if not fixed.

However, more research is needed to determine the best way to provide patients with access to their electronic records, said Prashila Dullabh, Health IT program area director of NORC, a research organizatrion affiliated with the University of Chicago. "There is great variety in how EHRs handle amendments," she said.

One promising way to share data with patients and correct mistakes is to use patient portals tethered to EHRs, Norman Sondeimer, Ph.D., co-director of the electronic enterprise institute at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst said during the webinar. A recent study of eight hospitals' patient portals found that the portals can encourage feedback using a feedback button embedded on the screen. Then an icon can identify that the patient suggested an edit to the data, giving the provider the opportunity to review and formally change the medical record. 

While the concept of providing patients access to their digital data didn't appear controversial, there are concerns that requiring it of all hospitals to meet Stage 2 of Meaningful Use may not be practicable. The American Hospital Association (AHA) noted in its comment letter on the proposed rule for Stage 2 that the requirement raises security issues and that many hospitals do not yet have the technical capability.  

To learn more:
- here's information about the webinar
- check out NeHC's website
- read the AHA's comment letter (.pdf)