I’ve written a number of times about the tremendous potential when we digitize patient records, with recent studies highlighting how AI can predict everything from sepsis to heart failure via the data contained in our records.
Alas, data also underlines the incredibly slow pace of digitization in much of the developed world. The analysis, which is believed to be the first of its kind, examines the progress made in transferring patient records to digital, and shows a complex picture best by poor understanding of IT implementation and an underestimation on the kind of changes digitization would bring.
Not fit for purpose
Sadly, even the records that are digitized are often not fit for purpose. I’ve written previously about studies showing that the data contained in medical records is often not of sufficient quality to support medical research.
What’s more, a recent study suggests they may actually be making practice less safe because of poor usability. The study examined the usability levels of major EHR vendors over several years in 571 different facilities.
The results revealed a sizeable number of reported safety events where an EHR vendor or product were mentioned as playing a part in harm to the patient.
Last year researchers highlighted the challenges many doctors have in working with EHR software. The study quizzed doctors on their perceptions of the impact EHR had on patient engagement levels. It found that doctors were often anything but complimentary about them, citing higher levels of burnout and a depersonalization of their work.
“Physicians who are burnt out provide lower-quality care,” the authors say. “What this speaks to is that we, as physicians, need to demand a rethinking of how quality is measured and if we’re really getting the quality we hoped when we put in EHRs. There are unintended consequences of measuring quality as it’s currently being done.”
What’s more, the poor communication EHR can often ensure can reduce the effectiveness of treatment plans, with patients less likely to engage in follow-up visits. Despite this however, doctors appreciate that EHR can provide numerous benefits, and are undoubtedly here to stay. Perhaps more work needs to be done in either increasing the usability or improving training on the systems.