To Err Is…Human?

Since the first modern EMR was introduced in 1972, it has revolutionized the way we look at medical care. Benefits of this type of software include a unified health record, quick access to patient records, secure sharing of information among members of a care team, and cost reductions. The time-saving features of the EMR have the potential to increase the productivity of many physicians, allowing them to see more patients and provide better care.

Electronic records are often viewed as nearly infallible, but this is not the case. While reducing some errors, EMRs create the opportunity for different types of mistakes. A study discussed in this article concluded that 56.4% of patient safety errors were related to EMRs. Another article claims that 70% of patient records contain incorrect information. Some of these errors have to do with improper entry of patient information into the EMR. For example, if a patient’s weight is not keyed correctly, the patient may receive the wrong dosage of a medication, leading to complications. Another type of error occurs when the EMR system does not provide the proper feedback, such as when a physician erroneously orders an unneeded or excessive treatment and is not alerted by the system of possible dangers.

Other errors can be ascribed to the cumbersome EMR interface. The mere implementation of a new interface and the associated learning curve can increase rates of physician burnout, due to the amount of time spent entering data into the system. Widespread physician burnout greatly reduces the quality of care delivered. On some interfaces, it is difficult to bypass irrelevant fields or see which fields are required. In addition, most healthcare facilities receive documentation from other providers and struggle to consolidate this information into the patients’ records. Data that comes from unstructured or external sources may not be integrated correctly. This could lead to inaccurate information existing within the EMR, as well as inappropriate care decisions made based on this information.  These errors have the potential to compromise patient safety and quality of care.

Most errors are considered minor and do not affect patient care, but others are major and can cause injury, death, or emotional distress. For this reason, it is essential that EMR builders are constantly working to improve on the user interface. In this regard, provider input is invaluable, since they are the ones who work with the software every day and can alert designers to their difficulties and frustrations. Through such collaboration, EMRs will become more intuitive and less onerous.

At Extract, we realize that what is most valuable is time spent with a patient. That’s why we integrate with your EMR to deliver data from unstructured documents and test results to help you deliver the best care with the most accurate data.

 For more information:

Common EMR Errors & Challenges:

Advantages of the EMR:

Other sources:

About the Author: Claire Means

Claire is a Database Development Specialist at Extract Systems. She started at the company as a document verifier, which gives her a unique understanding of the redaction software. Her attention to detail and high rate of accuracy prove her dedication to Extract’s success. Claire holds a certificate in Web Design from Madison College and her special interests include web analytics and search engine optimization.