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Are EMRs One of The Top Health Hazards for 2011?

Posted on February 10, 2011 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

One key benefit of implementing an EMR is improved patient safety, right?  Better access to complete patient records, e-prescribing, easy-to-read physicians’ notes, drug interaction warnings and so on?

Not necessarily, says healthcare research organization the ECRI Institute.  The group argues that HIT complications — which obviously dog EMR implementation and use — are one of the top health technology hazards for 2011.

According to the group’s research, dangerous HIT-related problems such as data loss, incompatibilities between multivendor software applications and systems, incorrectly entered or corrupted data, and errors in data analysis are quite capable of causing patient harm.

ECRI’s advice on reducing such risks includes the following, which should send a chill down the spine of any HIT manager:  “Remember that help desk calls regarding computer equipment and systems may now literally be a matter of life and death,” the group says in its “Top 10 Health Technology Hazards for 2011” report.

As we all know, these problems are likely to get worse, not better, as EMR systems roll out, bringing with them a massively complex set of management and systems integration issues.  Unfortunately, we don’t yet know just how bad things are likely to get.

Late last year, a patient safety organization called PDRSecure launched a Web site allowing visitors to report EMR safety-related events.  (Those entering the reports have to supply their names, which is likely to slow things down more than a little.) So far, at least, PDRSecure hasn’t released data on incoming reports.

While your editor isn’t an academic, what little research I’ve seen on EMR safety seems to be inconclusive.  Some general interest articles and bloggers argue that HIT errors are the big threat, and others suggest that mistakes made by still-training clinicians are far more dangerous, but I haven’t seen any hard evidence there either.

The bottom line, though, is that while we’re going through a comparatively giddy period of spending on EMRs,  and awaiting the Meaningful Use dollars to come, it might be nice to keep the patient safety issue on the front burner.  From where I sit, there’s been too little candid discussion of EMR risks.

So, where do you come down on this?  How important is it to discuss EMR safety hazards? Have you seen incidents that concerned you?  And here’s a scary thought: should the FDA regulate EMRs and demand routine critical incident reporting?

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Guest Post: The Recent EMR Debate

Posted on June 15, 2009 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

The recent increase in the adoption of EMRs due to the Obama administration’s stimulus package has caused a stir within the medical field.  This computerized record technology has already changed the face of American health care, amidst an inner sense of conflict between smaller and larger healthcare centers.  The stimulus package has forced many smaller offices to update their health records because of the government’s overall plan to hasten the implementation of EMRs in order to curb the cost of care nationwide.  While this new implementation has proved to be controversial, its intentions are for the better of society as a whole.

While most healthcare centers already use computerized software to keep their records in order, a lot of smaller companies do not have the necessary funds needed in order to fully implement this system.  Because of the increased demand for this technology, larger companies have acquired larger shares of health information-technology specialists, leaving everyone else to scramble for a share.  This will in turn lead to smaller companies becoming forced to team with larger ones simply to adopt computerized health records because of the overarching cost.  While this was a largely unforeseen consequence of the stimulus package, it is still one that has affected many smaller practices in a large way.

Healthcare should be computerized in general, as it leads to better archival records and an easier way to back everything up.  However, smaller companies should not be forced to update their systems simply because the government has now deemed it necessary to convert to this method.  Many smaller practices are now hurting because of this transition, which is the exact opposite goal of the stimulus package.  The recent technological revolution has been ongoing since the beginning of the twentieth century, ushering in an age in which computers are commonplace and do well to be placed within doctor’s offices.  However, the government should take on the expense of implementing these throughout the country rather than forcing small businesses (which it is initially supposed to be protecting) to combine with larger ones simply in order to maintain their revenue.

It seems difficult to argue against a measure that is intended to benefit the whole of society in the end, but for a while, this will drastically alter the finances of many smaller health practices.  In consideration of these smaller centers, we need to discover a way in which we can consolidate health care practice into a technological aspect without causing further expense to an already “strapped” industry.

This post was contributed by Meredith Walker, who writes about the top nursing schools. She welcomes your feedback at MeredithWalker1983 at