The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has recently proposed a series of revisions to its rules requiring doctors, hospitals and tech companies to use electronic health records (EHRs). The proposed revisions would provide more time to meet the requirements and would address a number of complaints from health care professionals.
Digital records are supposed to make things easier for doctors and consumers, allowing the exchange of information about patients, which is intended to improve quality of care and avoid duplication of tests and procedures. In fact, doctors and hospitals got $28 billion in federal stimulus funding beginning in 2011 to install EHR systems. In exchange, doctors and hospitals were to attest they were using these systems to meaningfully improve patient care last year or lose some of their Medicare payments this year.
The issue, however is that the EHR systems are in still in the early stages and may claim they are not good enough. In an article in USA Today, Terry Fairbanks, a physician who directs MedStar’s National Center for Human Factors in Healthcare, was quoted as saying that the federal government “missed a critical step… they spent billions of dollars to finance the implementation of flawed software.”
Physicians claim they are now spending more time looking at computer screens inputting data during patient consultations. Moreover, some systems are not intuitive making the entire process cumbersome. In addition, some practitioners have found that the EHR system they’re using doesn’t connect with other systems in hospitals and elsewhere.
Other issues with these systems involve reliability with computer crashes common, causing some to switch over to paper records. Safety is another concern. The USA Today article cited an incident that occurred at the University of California San Francisco in which a “teenage patient nearly died of a grand mal seizure after getting 39 times the dose of an antibiotic because of an EHR-related issue.”
Of course, there is the issue of liability and medical malpractice. If electronic records are not used correctly, they can increase the risk of errors, malpractice and lawsuits. For example, although HER systems are designed to give electronic warnings about medication allergies, if doctors don’t put the prescribed medication in the right place in the record, the warning many not be displayed.
In light of these and other issues, the medical industry is urging HHS to give them even more time and flexibility to improve their systems.
We’ll continue to keep you updated on this important issue and how the HHS proceeds. Caitlin Morgan offers medical malpractice insurance to small and large physicians and surgeon groups and hospital staff in Indiana. We can provide primary limits up to $250,000/$1,250,000 on a claims-made or occurrence form. For more information about our Indiana Medical Malpractice program, please contact us at 877.226.1027.
Source: USA Today, HHS