3 mistakes that cause health IT hazards

While health technology--including electronic health records--no doubt has the potential to streamline and improve patient care, providers must proceed with caution when using the latest clinical innovations. A recent Health Data Management article outlines several examples of how such tools can turn hazardous.

Here are three:

1. Faulty implementation: Last fall, an advisory from the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority reported that design and implementation problems accounted for errors connected with improper use of default values for medication order sets in more than 300 EHRs. Erin Sparnon, a senior patient safety analyst with ECRI--which published the advisory--told Health Data Management that hazards often occur due to "a misalignment between system configuration and clinician workflows."

2. Alert overload: In research published last spring, providers said that excessive alerts have caused them to personally overlook test results, which ultimately led to patient care delays. What's more, more than two-thirds of providers surveyed said that the alerts they encountered were more than they could effectively manage.

"It's so easy to send an FYI to a clinician, even if it doesn't require action, that we're getting an overwhelmingly huge amount of information that drowns the signal," study author Hardeep Singh, of the Baylor College of Medicine, told Health Data Management.

Another study published last fall found that in a review of more than 150,000 clinical decision support alerts on 2 million outpatient medication orders, providers opted to override roughly half of the alerts.

3. Interfaces between two systems often can cause inadvertent mistakes, Dean Sittig, a professor of biomedical informatics at the University of Texas Health Science Center, told Health Data Management. In fact, some of the top health IT related adverse events stem from interface issues, according to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and The Joint Commission.

"These are not [all] unique to EHRs," Karen Zimmer, medical director for the ECRI Institute, said during a webinar produced by ONC in January. "But in EHRs [the error] can automatically populate another field."

To learn more:
- read the Health Data Management article