GAO: Obtaining EHR data a challenge to identifying adverse patient safety events

Pulling data from electronic health records to efficiently identify adverse events is one of the "key challenges" hospitals face in reducing such events, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The report, part of a study of six selected hospitals from April 2015 through February 2016 regarding implementing evidence-based practices, found that all of the hospitals faced the same challenges in using EHRs to reduce adverse patient events.

Obtaining data on adverse events requires substantial time, resources and investment in EHR systems. In addition, hospitals needed to use multiple vendors to obtain the data, had trouble reconciling the electronic records with paper ones, and had to deal with EHR data that was inaccurate.

Even when data was obtained, the information related to patient safety may be too out of date to help identify and address recent adverse events at the hospital. For instance, because the data was not timely, one hospital could not use the data to determine whether a new process to ensure that patients were treated with medication to prevent venous thromboembolism was successful.

The GAO noted that concerns about the reliability of the data was consistent with concerns that GAO has expressed previously and that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had not fully addressed these reliability issues.  

HHS acknowledged the GAO's concerns in the new report and noted that as EHRs evolve it is anticipated that quality reporting systems will be increasingly automated to make identifying adverse events more efficient.

The GAO report also found that hospitals had trouble determining what patient safety practices should be implemented and ensuring that staff implements such practices.

Improving patient safety has always been an issue in the healthcare industry. EHRs have been found to both reduce and increase adverse patient safety events.  Hospitals have been making strides in using their EHRs in different ways to improve patient health and reduce hospitals readmissions.

To learn more:
- read the report