Are EHRs Helping or Hindering Patient Safety Efforts? (Part 2)

EHR software is not designed to capture patient safety data in a way that is meaningful. Here’s what you can do about it.

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Part 2 of 2

In the wake of a March 18 Fortune magazine article, “Death by a Thousand Clicks: Where Electronic Health Records Went Wrong,” we published the first half of this two-part blog, “Are EHRs Helping or Hindering Patient Safety Efforts?” earlier this month.

To recap, Fortune reporters Erika Fry and Fred Schulte chronicled the lack of patient safety improvements that have been made in the 10 years since President Barack Obama signed a law to accelerate the digitization of medical records.

“Physicians complain about clumsy, unintuitive systems and the number of hours spent clicking, typing, and trying to navigate them – which is more than the hours they spend with patients,” the author wrote. “Unlike, say, with the global network of ATMs, the proprietary EHR systems made by more than 700 vendors routinely don’t talk to one another, meaning that doctors still resort to transferring medical data via fax and CD-ROM. Patients, meanwhile, still struggle to access their own records – and, sometimes, just plain can’t.”

The Root of the Problem

However, while it would certainly be advantageous for all EHRs to talk to one another – providing universal and complete access to a patient’s medical history – that alone is not enough to reduce preventable patient harm. There is something bigger at play here, and that something is the fact that most EHR software is not designed to capture patient safety data in a way that is meaningful. Yes, patient safety incidents can be captured in the provider’s electronic notes, but unless there is an easy way to extract that data for trend analysis, the ability to identify patient safety improvement opportunities will be lost.

And, based on the rising number of deaths related to medical errors – a study by Johns Hopkins reported that medical errors are now the third-leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer – lost they have been.

To circumvent the patient safety data collection issue inherent in EHR systems, many hospitals continue to collect incident reports with paper forms, which has problems of its own. First, paper incident reports can easily be lost or misplaced. Second, the reports may never find their way into any computerized system, which means analysis is difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. Third, even if the incident reports are inputted for data analysis, the lag time between reporting and data entry could be lengthy, causing any potential improvement opportunities to be lost over time. Fourth, human error could cause any entered data to be inaccurate.

Not surprisingly, then, these issues often result in inaccurate figures, lost or overlooked information, and discrepancies that taint and disrupt further findings. Unfortunately, these inaccuracies can ultimately lead to additional patient safety issues, rather than reducing preventable patient harm.

Harnessing Big Data

There is no longer any doubt that improving patient outcomes and tracking both processes and results have become strategic imperatives. While paper-based systems may have worked a decade or two ago, learning from the vast amounts of patient safety and quality improvement data being collected by the typical healthcare organization now requires substantial computing power.

Without patient safety software, healthcare executives are likely to miss opportunities to reduce medical errors simply because they can’t see the patient safety forest for the trees. Robust patient safety software allows hospitals and health systems to evolve to true learning organizations, with the software identifying trends in the data that data analysts – no matter how skilled they might be at Excel – simply aren’t able to do.

As such, any patient safety and enterprise risk management solution should include – at a minimum – the ability to record, track, analyze, and report on incidents, patient experience, claims, and complaints.

The Datix Patient Safety Toolkit

Datix has been a global pioneer in the field of patient safety over the past three decades and today is the leading provider of software for patient safety and risk management for the healthcare sector. We are 100% focused on healthcare and committed to reducing the frequency and impact of adverse events. As such, our single focus is to provide the tools that allow your organization to measurably reduce patient harm while improving safety, quality, and experience.

Our products are the result of our continued drive for innovation. Advances in software and cutting-edge data analytics have enabled us to produce a range of tools that help our customers create opportunities to learn from things that go wrong. Datix continually invests in its software and services, maintaining a leadership position at the forefront of the worldwide patient safety movement.

If you are looking to take the first step in improving patient safety culture and want a locally hosted product, then DatixWeb is for you.

DatixWeb is web-based patient safety software for healthcare risk management applications, delivering safety, risk, and governance elements through a variety of integrated software modules. DatixWeb is the first stage in the Datix Quality Improvement Loop, concerned with the capture and review of data. It’s the first step toward improving patient safety and creating a culture of learning.

If you are ready to push the boundaries of quality management and want a cloud hosted product, then Datix Cloud IQ is the solution you’re looking for.

Datix Cloud IQ is the next step in the future of patient safety. The SaaS-based software goes beyond the simple capture and review of data, allowing organizations to go one step further and improve quality improvement processes. As issues are uncovered and improvements are implemented, organizational procedures are updated to embed the changes. With Datix Cloud IQ, organizations have a memory of what works and why.

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We will respond to your query and deal with your personal data in accordance with our Privacy Policy. If you are an organisation already benefitting from, or likely to benefit from, Datix’s products and services, we may get in touch with you to consider this further.