'Sloppy' EHR copying increases risk of patient harm

Careless copying and pasting of notes in electronic health records may put patients in harm's way, according to an article published this week in American Medical News.

Most physicians use the copy-and-paste feature in their EHRs, according to a recent study in Critical Care Medicine, which called the practice "common." And when used correctly, according to the amednews article, copy-and-paste can be a great time saver. But when copy-and-paste becomes "sloppy and paste," an EHR becomes inaccurate and can affect patient safety. The article cites several incidents of EHR errors caused by such carelessness, most of which were caught before any patients were adversely affected.  

To avoid errors when using an EHR's copy-and-paste function, Weill Cornell Medical College's Department of Medicine recommended five steps, including:  

  • Avoiding copying and pasting of text from another person's note without attribution.
  • Avoiding repetitive copying and pasting of lab results and radiology reports.
  • Noting important results with proper context, and documenting any resulting actions.
  • Reviewing and updating shared information found elsewhere in the electronic record included in a note.
  • Including previous history critical to longitudinal care in the outpatient setting, as long as it is always reviewed and updated.

Other stakeholders in the industry have called for further initiatives to protect patients from health IT problems. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services also recently issued a plan to tackle these issues, and more.

To learn more:
- read the amednews article