EHRs Contribute to Patient Safety Risks, Communication Errors

Jennifer Bresnick | Health ITAnalytics | February 1, 2016

EHRs and inadequate communication strategies may be contributing to patient safety errors that lead to malpractice litigation, serious injury, and even death.

Electronic health records may not be the only reason why patient safety is put at risk by poor communication and human errors, but they are certainly contributing to the problem, according to a report by CRICO Strategies. The latest patient safety benchmarking report found that 30 percent of the medical malpractice cases filed between 2009 and 2013 involved failures in communication.  More than 7100 of those cases resulted in an adverse patient safety event or patient harm.

“Whether face-to-face, by phone, or via the medical record, information exchange guides the patient’s diagnosis, treatment, and ultimately, his or her prognosis and outcome,” the report says. “Patients and providers rely on information being timely, accurate, and accessible. When communication is unreliable, then providers and patients dependent on being fully-informed are left vulnerable to medical errors that can lead to serious harm.”

Provider-to-provider communication errors are just as prevalent as provider-to-patient lapses, and occur primarily in the inpatient and ambulatory settings.  Only eight percent of incidents were rooted in the emergency department. Wherever they take place, the outcomes of these incidents tends to be relatively severe: forty-four percent of reported patient injuries resulted in significant harm, including death.  Nearly one in four of all “high severity” injury cases can be traced back to a communication failure...