New recommendations can help health providers prepare for electronic record push

September 8, 2009

A new framework of recommendations created by health informatics researchers may help doctors and hospitals prepare for a federal initiative to expand the use of electronic health records (EHRs). The recommendations from faculty at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Baylor College of Medicine appear in a commentary in the Sept. 9 edition of JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"With high-quality, well-designed, and carefully implemented systems, highly-reliable, safe health care will be achieved," said Dean Sittig, Ph.D., commentary author, associate professor at The University of Texas School of Health Information Sciences at Houston and member of The University of Texas - Memorial Hermann Center for Healthcare Quality and Safety.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 created approximately $20 billion in incentives for individuals and organizations to "meaningfully" use beginning next year. Previous studies report that 4 percent of physicians in the outpatient setting and 1.5 percent of U.S. hospitals have a comprehensive electronic health record system.

"This framework can help make sure that electronic health records are used safely and effectively as doctors continue to adopt them," said Hardeep Singh, M.D., M.P.H. co-author and assistant professor of medicine and health services research at the VA Health Services Research and Development Center of Excellence and Baylor in Houston.

This framework of recommendations proposed by Sittig and Singh provides guidance for key stakeholders who are either currently involved or who will soon be involved with electronic health records.

"While using electronic health records, we not only have to consider issues related to technology, but also issues related to people who use them, how they interact with technology and how the electronic health record fits with the work flow of the clinic or organization that adopts it," said Singh, who noted that if the Computerized Patient Record System developed by the Department of Veterans Affairs was included in the EHR-use study, the percentage of U.S. hospitals with a comprehensive electronic health record system would nearly double to 2.9 percent.

VA's electronic health record system covers many aspects of patient care, including reminders for preventive health care, electronic entry of orders, display of laboratory test results, consultation requests, and pathology and imaging studies.

"The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stipulates that clinicians and healthcare organizations can receive incentive payments for 'meaningful use' of EHRs. Depending on the definition and timeline for 'meaningful use,' this legislation could result in a rush to implement sub-optimal systems," said Sittig, co-author of a new book that addresses EHR issues and is titled "Clinical Information Systems: Overcoming Adverse Consequences."

For Americans to realize the full potential of electronic health records, which include reduced cost, less duplication and greater quality, Sittig and Singh believe all eight essentials, which are based on a systems engineering model for patient safety, should be followed.

1. Hardware and software - Before implementation starts, the clinician and healthcare organization must have the proper hardware and software. "Anything that slows or disrupts the clinician's work flow could negatively affect patient safety," the authors wrote. "While free electronic health record software available is available, such as Veterans Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA ) developed by VA, all of the other seven essentials in the framework must also be addressed for safe and effective use," Sittig said.

2. Content - To make sure that information is shared effectively, the federal government has taken steps to standardize the terms used to describe clinical findings. "Adoption of a standard vocabulary is prerequisite to implementing advanced clinical decision support," the authors wrote.

3. User interface - The information should be easy to access and to enter. Ideally, the interface should present all the important patient information in a way so that clinicians can rapidly recognize problems, and respond to them appropriately.

4. Personnel - For EHRs to work safely, healthcare organizations will need to hire trained and knowledgeable software designers, developers, trainers and implementation and maintenance staff. The American Medical Informatics Association has identified the knowledge and skills necessary for many of these jobs. The School of Health Information Sciences at Houston currently offers educational programs and degrees in these areas.

5. Work flow and communication - The EHR system needs to be thoroughly tested within the clinic or hospital prior to implementation. Any bugs in the system should be fixed ahead of time.

6. Organizational characteristics - There should be a system to report errors and identify obstacles to care. "Innovation, exploration and continual improvement are key organizational factors for safe EHR use. The VA is a model of many of these organizational features," the authors state.

7. State and federal rules and regulations - Care must to be taken to make sure regulations protect patient safety and privacy.

8. Monitoring - Oversight, even after initial adoption and use, is crucial to the success of the switch from paper-based patient records to electronic records.

"These issues are essential to maximize patient care benefits and minimize unintended errors from technology," Singh said.

The commentary is titled "Eight rights of safe electronic health record use." The authors received support from the National Library of Medicine, the VA National Center of Patient Safety, the Houston VA Health Services Research and Development Center of Excellence and the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality.

Source: Baylor College of Medicine (news : web)

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Drug therapy from lethal bacteria could reduce kidney transplant rejection

August 3, 2017
An experimental treatment derived from a potentially deadly microorganism may provide lifesaving help for kidney transplant patients, according to an international study led by investigators at Cedars-Sinai.

Exploring the potential of human echolocation

June 25, 2017
People who are visually impaired will often use a cane to feel out their surroundings. With training and practice, people can learn to use the pitch, loudness and timbre of echoes from the cane or other sounds to navigate ...

Team eradicates hepatitis C in 10 patients following lifesaving transplants from infected donors

April 30, 2017
Ten patients at Penn Medicine have been cured of the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) following lifesaving kidney transplants from deceased donors who were infected with the disease. The findings point to new strategies for increasing ...

'bench to bedside to bench': Scientists call for closer basic-clinical collaborations

March 24, 2017
In the era of genome sequencing, it's time to update the old "bench-to-bedside" shorthand for how basic research discoveries inform clinical practice, researchers from The Jackson Laboratory (JAX), National Human Genome Research ...

The ethics of tracking athletes' biometric data

January 18, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—Whether it is a FitBit or a heart rate monitor, biometric technologies have become household devices. Professional sports leagues use some of the most technologically advanced biodata tracking systems to ...

Financial ties between researchers and drug industry linked to positive trial results

January 18, 2017
Financial ties between researchers and companies that make the drugs they are studying are independently associated with positive trial results, suggesting bias in the evidence base, concludes a study published by The BMJ ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.