Feds contemplate patient-safety framework for EHR systems


The practice of medicine is becoming increasingly virtual. Robots help to perform a number of surgeries, doctors frequently consult portable electronic devices for information when creating treatment plans and an increasing amount of patient data is being housed electronically. Unfortunately, the use of many of these technologies accompany potential patient safety risks associated with software glitches, input errors and other challenges that can lead to claims of medical malpractice.

As a result, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at the federal department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is in the process of creating a framework for electronic health records (EHRs) that is centered on patient safety. Until now, much technology related to EHRs has gone unregulated and as a result, mistakes are being made that ultimately lead to patient harm.

More than 18 months ago, a report compiled by the Institute of Medicine indicated that current EHR systems pose several risks classified as unacceptable to patients. The current HHS efforts reflect that the federal government is taking these risks seriously and expects industry personnel to respond appropriately once the new regulations have been finalized. A date for finalization has yet to be set.

EHR systems can help healthcare professionals avoid patient safety mistakes linked to illegible handwriting, inadequate communication and failure to streamline certain processes. However, without adequate regulation EHR systems are at present often doing patients more harm than good. As the new regulations are refined and become finalized, patients will almost certainly benefit directly from this increased attention and oversight.

Source: ModernHealthcare.com, “Feds move nearer to patient-safety framework for health IT,” Joseph Conn, May 30, 2013

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