Proper Planning Is Key to Maintaining Patient Safety with EHR

You likely already know how important proper planning is when it comes to EHR implementation. However, what you might not know is that improper planning or a sloppy EHR implementation could actually endanger your patient’s health.

A study published in Information Week: Healthcare shows that when information systems like EHR are implemented without careful planning and management, problems can arise that threaten patient safety.

The study was recently published in the American Journal of Managed Care, and is based on interviews with physicians, nurses, IT staff, pharmacists, and clinic managers. Although the study focused solely on seven VA hospitals, the conclusion is that these problems are not unique to the VA system. In short, any hospital and clinic might see these problems if their EHR implementation isn’t managed correctly.

So, what kinds of problems are we talking about here? Well, there were a host of issues that occurred in ill-managed implementations.

First, many clinics didn’t know how many computer terminals they would need. These hospitals use computer carts depending on a wireless signal, but many didn’t test these systems sufficiently before GoLive.

Another problem was that many staff members didn’t feel comfortable using computers. The new EHR system dramatically slowed workflow.

The study reports that in some hospitals, network problems slowed computer response time. In some areas, unanticipated dead spots led to interrupted coverage.

The most serious problems occurred in the months after GoLive. According to the study, every site had problems with medications  being miscoded, items not scanning correctly, and empty unit-dose packages being delivered to the wards. Another major issue was with patient wristbands. In many sites, nurses cut patients’ wristbands to scan them, or they used extra wristbands in the patients’ charts. They also reported that their were either explicitly or implicitly permitted to use workarounds like typing codes incorrectly or doing all the scanning after administering medication.

What’s more troubling is that the researches noted some of these workarounds were still being used years later, even after technical upgrades fixed the problems.

The point here is that without proper planning, a poor EHR implementation can have many unintended consequences. It will not only slow your hospital or clinic temporarily, it can create bad habits in your staff and even put patient safety at serious risk, especially regarding medication.



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