Patients Benefit From EHR Safety Features

Not happy with your EHR, or more correctly, not happy that you have to have an EHR? You’re not alone as many physician’s report dissatisfaction with the near obligation to use an EHR, as well as the specific one that they chose.

Peeling away the layers of physician dissatisfaction, the cost, having to learn something new, changing internal process, and simply the feeling that the machine is running you, not the other way around, physicians are actually expressing appreciation for the safety features that EHR usage brings to their patients. A study released by The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology reports that EHRs are making patients safer, and physicians are beginning to appreciate that they can contribute positively to patient care.

Despite the complaint of “alarm fatigue”, which only 14% said were interruptions and distractions, more than half found those alerts to be valuable warnings that positively impacted the care they render.

Computer order entry, end electronic documentation is credited to reductions in adverse events, including a 52% reduction in adverse drug events. With 45% reporting that a specific EHR alert warned them of possible medication errors. And speaking of the benefits of EHRs impact on prescriptions, errors from handwriting have decreased, allowing for pharmacy checks on drug interactions, as well as actually decreasing the wait time for the patient to obtain their medications.

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Almost 70% reported that laboratory and medication reminder and alerts aid them in avoiding patient harm, with EHRs being credited with helping physicians choose the correct lab test.

And while the ONC has a vested interest in EHR implementation, Carnegie Mellon University’s Living Analytics Research Center has also done work in the area of EHRs impact on patient safety. Their study reported a 27% reduction in adverse patient events, a 30% drop in medication errors, and a 25% drop in complications from tests, treatments or procedures. When computerized provider order entry was adopted, there was a 14% reduction in unfavorable reactions to a patient.

Patient safety, improved care, and with may ACO and health plans paying bounces for improving preventive care services, EHRs are helping deliver, and are credited by the ONC study for a 47% improvement in the provision of preventive care services, additionally 39% of physicians said that they would most likely meet clinical guidelines for chronic care disease management because of their growing reliance on their EHR. Those timely reminders are helping physicians do better for their patients. And patients are responding positively to the added “concern” shown by the physician, reminded by their EHR.

Used correctly, physicians are finding the reminders to also be good for business, as reminders about such preventive services as vaccinations, colonoscopies, mammograms, and the like generate additional patient visits.

Another patient safety feature of EHRs is actually the added security of the EHR structure. While hacks make the news, medical information systems are far more secure than paper medical records. Paper has to be protected with locks and keys, and access to one record usually means access to a room full of them. Access to the EHR is much more controlled, and when accessed, tracking of who saw what, and when is automatically documented.

incidents, keeping patients reminded about upcoming vaccinations, and protecting their identity are three important ways that you can use EHR to keep your patients safe.

A bit of enlightened thinking is needed then when considering your dissatisfaction with your EHR. If your dissatisfaction with what you choose, how you’re using it because surely few would be dissatisfied with improvements to the safety of their patients.

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