Report cites need for Electronic Health Records

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An article in the NY Times last week highlighted yet another reason why businesses, and particularly health-related organizations, need to take the time to carefully review their document management software systems.  An Institute of Medicine report, released on November 7, recommended the creation of an independent agency to investigate any injuries or deaths that may be linked to health information technology issues.

While the intent of moving from paper to digital health records is to provide more maneuverable, controlled filing and improved health care at a lower cost, the report found that poorly designed systems are not only ineffective, but dangerous.  Perfect timing, given that the federal government is providing more than $27 billion in incentives over the next six years to encourage hospitals, clinics and doctors to transfer from the old-fashioned pen and paper to more updated tech-friendly alternatives.

The report states that the proposed investigative agency should be designed similarly to the National Transportation Safety Board and suggested that electronic health record suppliers eliminate “hold harmless” clauses from their sales contracts. Furthermore, they asserted a necessity of tracking the safety performance of electronic health files, as studies thus far have shown mixed results, and filing an annual report on the findings.

However, it’s important to note that it’s not merely the software systems that are under scrutiny here, but also the way in which these systems are utilized, as the report cited “poor human-computer interactions” as a major concern.  Therefore, the importance of a user-friendly system cannot be underscored enough.  Likewise, the report makes note of the concern of data leaks, an especially strict regulation in the health care industry.

The Electronic Health Records Association, headquartered in Chicago, took their time in responding to the issue, but released a carefully crafted message yesterday afternoon which emphasized the need to “develop practical, effective, and optimized reporting tools to collect information on medical incidents that may be related to the use of health information technology.”