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Rising EHR-related errors, but few patient injuries

With the relatively new push for electronic health records (EHR) by the HHS some hospitals are seeing complications arise from technology errors while making the transition from paper. The Affordable Care Act is also adding additional pressure to make this transition seamless and mainstream. The ultimate hope is that lost records and a lack of hospital sharing of records will someday no longer exist.

However, in this transition to a more transparent and collaborative health system (at least among health professionals), hospitals are reporting that they are experiencing more and more patient safety problems related to these new technologically advanced health records. Luckily, while there may be some growing pains involved in this transition for both patients and health care professionals alike, the percentage leading to actual patient harm and potential medical malpractice claims are few.

The new technologies, while often simple to use, come with a myriad of complexities. First of all, the transitioning of the documents from paper to electronic provides its own difficulties. Secondly, with new technology must come training on its use, and while some will pick up the subtle nuances and benefits rather quickly, others may not or even forget how to operate the systems and input data correctly. Thirdly, there will always be times where technology fails, whether it is the computers and tablets themselves, or the servers hosting the data that crash.

With new technology comes new complexity. It is somewhat like cleaning. Often times initially, the mess gets messier and even more confusing prior to getting sorted out and making maintenance and management of areas simpler than they once were. Let’s just hope that the technology makes this transition a little smoother rather quickly.

Source:, “EHR-related errors soar but few harm patients,” Kevin B. O’Reilly, Jan. 14, 2013