Patient photos in EHRs reduce treatment errors

Using photographs of patients in an EHR system to verify their identity can reduce computerized physician order entry (CPOE) errors, according to a new study published in Pediatrics.

Although EHR systems can improve the care provided, mistakes do occur, often because of human error. Children's Hospital of Colorado found that placement of orders into the wrong patients' medical chart was the second most common reason for care being provided to the wrong patients, causing 24% of the reported errors.

Researchers from the hospital and the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine wondered if changing the design of the EHR system to require a "verification screen" that included a photograph of the patient would reduce the number of these types of errors.

The change worked. In 15 months after implementation of the verification process with CPOE, no patient with a photograph in his or her record received unintended care based on an erroneous order placement in the chart.

"The incorporation of patient pictures within a computerized order entry verification process is an effective strategy for reducing the risk that erroneous placement of orders in a patient's EMR will result in unintended care being provided to an incorrect patient," the researchers said.

Children's Hospital of Colorado was the first free standing pediatric hospital in the United States to deploy a fully integrated EHR system, doing so in 2007.  

To learn more:
- here's the study abstract
- get more information about the hospital's EHR system 
- read more about the study in this Reuters article