Are electronic health records (EHRs) safer than paper records? Or, will we see an increase in medical errors as clinicians switch from paper to electronic systems?
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) is conducting a study to examine the safety of EHRs. It's easy to accidentally enter data into the wrong patient's record. Or, it's easy to miss a check box when you're placing an order. Then again, these errors could be made if you're using a paper-based system, so why would mistakes occur more frequently if we're now using electronic systems?
I think that some physicians develop a dependency on some of the automated alerts and clinical decision support resources that are included in EHRs. There's also the fact that every screen looks the same and it's not as easy to circle your notes or write little comments on the side of the chart. There's no easy way to add colored flags or post-it notes on an electronic chart.
The Institute of Medicine created the Committee on Patient Safety and Health Information Technology to run a yearlong study and issue recommendations. The 16-member panel is meeting today in Washington. Let's wait to see the data. Until then, let's hope that our clinical care teams are being especially vigilant as they enter data into computers.
You can read about this on the NY Times here.