The Too-Slow Evolution of Electronic Medical Records
One person, two scenarios: the first almost effortless, the second chock-full of hassles. And with those hassles comes the danger of a malpractice event and a preventable patient injury. Consider:
Our Patient — we'll call her OP — had an appointment for a chest X-ray in the morning, and an appointment for a blood draw in the afternoon. The radiologist was on time, the procedure took mere minutes and it required only a small co-pay. Can a medical visit get any better?
Yes! When OP asked for a copy of the image for her own records, the office manager offered to put it online via an IT service that manages their office records on the cloud--an Internet data storage system accessed by log-in, enabling patients and doctors to share information.
Now for Scenario No. 2: After Our Patient had the blood drawn at the doctor's office, she was told to wait three days before calling for the lab results. When she asked that copies of the whole blood panel be sent to her for her records, she was told there would a processing charge unless she wished to make an appointment to make her own copies at the office. There was no option for online file sharing.
Lots of patients at that point would say to heck with it and would skip getting the lab results, with possible negative consequences for their health if the results showed something abnormal and the test result slipped through the cracks at the office of the ordering doctor — a frequent problem with offices deluged with paper test results.
Last autumn, we reported about a study by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to identify best policies and practices for improving health-care safety and reducing malpractice when using electronic health records. Its focus is the prevention of health IT-related errors, rapid reporting of patient safety concerns and methods to promote safety-enhancing features of electronic health records. Although the study results and recommendations are several months away, electronic record-keeping remains front and center.Continued on the next page