Institute of Medicine to Study Electronic Medical Records Safety

Lora Bentley
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Clinical Information System Response Times

A Compuware survey of health care professionals from organizations large and small revealed the majority are not satisfied with clinical information system response times.

It's been nearly two years since the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act set aside $19 million in federal incentives to help health care providers move to paperless records. In that time, proponents have stressed the many benefits that electronic records systems will provide. Increased efficiency and improved quality of care are chief among them.


But those systems are created and used by the same humans who make mistakes with paper records. The systems will have design flaws. Practitioners will still make mistakes entering or reading data. And all these things will impact patients.


That's why the Institute of Medicine recently created the Committee on Patient Safety and Health Information Technology to study safety issues created by electronic records systems. The group met for the first time earlier this week, The New York Times reports.


They will investigate, for instance, how parts of a patient's record disappear or are inadvertently attached to another patient's file. Or how a patient's blood pressure or allergies were reported incorrectly. After a year-long study of these and other problems, they will make recommendations.


Dr. David Blumenthal, the federal government's national coordinator for health information technology, told The New York Times, "all options for assuring safety are on the table," including regulation.


Electronic medical records system manufacturers are balking at that suggestion. They argue that regulation of the industry will unnecessarily stifle innovation. But as University of Miami bioethicist Kenneth Goodman pointed out, "We value innovation, but we don't value it more than safety." The key, according to Blumenthal and his colleagues, is finding the proper balance between the two.

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