Thursday, April 2, 2009

Opinion: EMR not a cure-all, but an enabler

In a recent US News and World Report blog article by Avery Comarow, the author writes that
...about one fourth of more than 175,000 medication errors registered in 2006 "involved some aspect of computer technology as at least one cause of the error." Mislabeled bar codes, confusing screen displays, and physicians overriding warnings on the screen about a drug were among the examples cited. Bad health IT, or bad use of it, can kill as effectively as low-quality care of any kind.
Hm. This seems like a false attribution to me. "Computer technology" (a vague phrase, indeed) is cited as being "one" component that led to various errors - but Mr. Comarow does not stipulate how or under what circumstances.

To this I say, briefly: Physicians who choose to override computerized pharmaceutical warnings are not doing so because they are hampered by the supposed impediments of EMR, but are rather persisting in what seems to be a lack of vigilance and responsibility on the part of that individual provider. EMR will continue to manifest these oversights, but one cannot attribute those kinds of errors - which are perhaps more prevalent, though less documented, with the use of paper charts - to Health IT.

Electronic health records is not a cure-all - to say this short changes the arguments in favor of EMR. EMR can, and will, enable health care providers to achieve the utmost in interoperable, fluid, and unified care - but only if those providers share a common commitment to its success.

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