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Electronic health records not failure-proof
11/23/2011
 
Poorly designed, hard-to-use computerized health records are a threat to patient safety, and an independent agency should be set up to investigate injuries and deaths linked to health information technology, according to a federal report noted recently by the New York Times.

The Department of Health and Human Services requested the study, in response to concerns that the push towards digital records might trigger technology-induced medical errors.

“The proposed investigative agency, the report said, should be modeled after the National Transportation Safety Board, which examines airline safety and accidents. The Institute of Medicine committee also called for tracking the safety performance of electronic health records in use. Results from studies done so far, the report said, are mixed. Success stories are offset by reports of patients harmed,” the Times said.

The report was an attempt to balance interests by acknowledging the safety risks and calling for more accountability, without hindering innovation or slowing the adoption of electronic health records, said Dr. Ashish K. Jha, associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and a member of the panel.

“There are real safety issues, but we believe that on average, health information technology improves patient safety,” Dr. Jha commented to the newspaper.