Safety questions loom over HIT transition

By Jeff Rowe
12:21 PM

On the matter of EHR safety, there seems to be some disagreement.

According to a recent survey, doctors are increasingly inclined to consider EHRs safer than paper records, but patients aren’t quite as sure.

In the survey, conducted by Practice Fusion, “more than half of physicians (54 percent) agreed that EHRs are safer, with just 18 percent of respondents selecting paper as the safer option.

For those doctors who said EHRs are safer, access to records when needed was cited as the top benefit by 63 percent.”

The patients surveyed saw things differently, however, “with 47 percent believing that paper is safer and 39 percent believing EHRs are safer.”

The survey also found that of “those who say paper charts were safer, 59 percent agree or strongly agree that those records are the more private option, and allow for more control over who sees them.”

It’s not really surprising that the patient jury is still out, and this is one topic that policymakers should be incorporating into any public education campaigns.

At the same time, patients aren’t necessarily wrong to be wary. In a panel discussion held at last week’s American Medical Informatics Association's 35th Annual Symposium on Biomedical and Health Informatics, a number of experts aired their concerns about EHR safety.

One speaker “said he believes health IT can improve patient safety, but ‘we're not doing it optimally,’ while another pointed out “that there has been limited research on the unintended risks of health IT use and how those risks can be addressed.”

To our eyes, this is one big reason why HIT proponents and policymakers would perhaps be wise to prefer a slower road into the HIT future. The goal, along with getting us into that future, should also be to get us there as safely as possible.