Inaccurate EHR info can spoil research, public health efforts

Data entered incorrectly in electronic health record systems can render not only that patient's record inaccurate, but also can adversely impact the results of research based on that data, according to a recent blog post by Anna Lembke, M.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford's School of Medicine.

Lembke, writing on the school's blog Scope, points out that one of the benefits of EHRs is to use their information for "big data" purposes and that EHRs are being data mined to make "important decisions" about clinical care and health policy. 

However, "if data-mining is based on inaccurate information, then the whole operation is a house of cards," she points out.

For example, one physician Lembke knows is required by his EHR to identify the ethnicity of all of his patients. Since he believes that this information isn't necessary, he quickly tackles that chore by listing them all as Albanian, since that is the first ethnic group listed on the EHR's pull down chart. As a result, more than 90 percent of his patients are identified as Albanian, even though they aren't, which falsely skews information about the population in his California county.

"Misinformation in electronic medical records, whether accidental or otherwise, has far-reaching consequences for patients and healthcare policy," Lembke warns.

Others have also expressed concern about inaccurate EHR data being unreliable for research, with one recent study recommending that EHRs should be evaluated to understand how to better use the data in research. The American Health Information Management Association has also recently called for standards to govern data and protect its integrity.  

To learn more:
- here's the blog post