Study: EHR problems stem from human interaction issues

The Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority identified nearly 4,000 problems in a recent examination of 3,099 reports of electronic health record-related events. The Authority, however, which sought to identify risks related to EHRs for use in future safety assessments, found that a vast majority of the problems reported (2,763, or 89 percent) resulted in no adverse outcomes for patients.

Conversely, a total of 15 reported problems involved temporary harm to patients stemming from the entering wrong medication data, administrating the wrong medication, ignoring a documented allergy, failing to enter lab tests and failing to document given care.

"When most people talk about the safety of health IT, they're thinking of software bugs, hardware failures, or network problems," Bill Marella, program director for the Authority, said, according to an EMR Daily News article. "But our data show issues that are much more about the human-computer interface or the ways healthcare providers interact with the technology." Marella added that, at least in the near term, EHRs can't yet be viewed as a remedy for all patient safety problems.

He also said that the study, which determined dual workflow using both paper-based and electronic records to be "problematic" for many facilities, gives all facilities using such tools "a glance a problems they should anticipate."

The Authority cited an Institute of Medicine report released last fall as one of the drivers in its efforts. In their report, "Health IT and Patient Safety: Building Safer Systems for Better Care," IOM officials said that a lack of hazard and risk reporting on health IT systems hinders building safer systems.

Last month, Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) wrote a letter to U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, saying HHS has been slow to report on its health IT patient-safety efforts as they pertain to the report's findings.

To learn more:
- here's the study
- read the EMR Daily News article