Maladies of Electronic Health Record Technologies: Scars of Poor Implementation and The Dangers of What We Don’t Know

Maladies of Electronic Health Record Technologies: Scars of Poor Implementation and The Dangers of What We Don’t Know

Maladies of Electronic Health Record Technologies: Scars of Poor Implementation and The Dangers of What We Don’t Know

Through the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009, our government began a push for the implementation of Electronic Health Records (EHR), which was woven into the stimulus plan at the incentive price of $30 billion. It is a linchpin in President Barack Obama's plan for health care reform. Different vendors supply their EHR Systems to our hospitals, and one day these systems are all supposed to "talk to" each other. According to a proposed timeline, this year should effect more rigorous standards to command this digitally bound network of our health data.

While the government claims the revolution in health information technology will, overall, identify safety problems, detect epidemics, and improve patient outcomes, as data of treatment and outcome data will be available for analysis by researchers who are bound by The Privacy Rule, The Security Rule, and The Breach Notification Rule under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, to protect the security and privacy of our records. To a great extent, our information is at risk.

As Geoff Brown previously discussed, a major epidemic plaguing our nation is that of inexcusable "killer" errors. Unfortunately, these errors can also happen when hospitals incorrectly use EHR Systems. Such errors relating to EHR result in stories like these:

  • The death of baby Genesis Burkett, who was administered a dose of sodium chloride more than 60 times the amount ordered by a physician at Advocate Lutheran General in Park Ridge
  • At the Memphis Veterans Affairs Center, EHR system misuse led to the deaths of at least two emergency department patients
  • As seen in the Huffington Post, "doctors and hospitals have reported to the FDA dozens of medical injuries--including six deaths and preventable heart attacks--caused by problems related to computerized health records such as software errors and unreadable computer screens. Some errors resulted in drug doses that were 10 times higher than intended. FDA officials called this the 'tip of the iceberg'."

Researchers estimate it will take many years to connect and integrate EHR systems in the United States. As patients, we hope that the implementation of such systems will improve diagnosis, treatment, and outcome. The Mayo Clinic has not resolved issues attempting to make three of their major EHR systems interoperable. If we put things into perspective, it becomes very difficult to see a world in which all of our EHR systems talk to each other.

Other issues include:

This $24 billion market (slated to grow by 10% through 2015) of Health Care Technology has a lethal flaw: it operates without regulations forcing the reporting of any and all errors, according to Bloomberg. As of Summer 2013, there exists no central database to analyze adverse event information to properly address flaws that directly affect our care. Reporting is voluntary. It should present as strange that, in a world of technology and research, we must assume the roles of guinea pigs as well as patients.

As patients, we must hold ourselves responsible for staying current and educating (to our full extent) our families as to the real and potential risks of these systems. We must actively participate in our health care--questioning our providers when necessary--and we must not remain silent. Indeed, every one of us spends important life moments as a patient, and so will our children and grandchildren in the next generation--voice your opinions to your providers and to your government representatives. Demand standardization and regulations so that errors are detected, reported, addressed, and prevented. Our lives depend on it.