Electronic Health Records: First, Do No Harm?

David F. Carr | InformationWeek | June 26, 2014

EHRs are commonly promoted as boosting patient safety, but are we all being fooled? InformationWeek Radio investigates.

One of the top stated goals of the federal Meaningful Use program encouraging adoption of electronic health records (EHR) technology is to improve patient safety. But is there really a cause-and-effect relationship between digitizing health records and reducing medical errors? Poorly implemented health information technology can also introduce new errors, whether from scrambled data or confusing user interfaces, sometimes causing harm to flesh-and-blood patients.

This is the issue we will tackle in our InformationWeek Radio show, Is Digitizing Healthcare Making It Less Safe?, Tuesday, July 1, at 2 p.m. EST. My guest for the show will be Scot M. Silverstein, M.D., a consultant and professor in the Drexel University informatics program who researches the shortcomings of EHR software. He also tracks the literature on EHR risks and offers his interpretations on the Health Care Renewal blog, where he posts as InformaticsMD. Silverstein serves as an expert witness in cases involving malfunctioning EHRs or malpractice cases involving the reliability of evidence recorded in EHR systems.

Don't expect a simple answer to the question of whether digitization is making healthcare more or less safe, on balance. "People will say, it's got to be better than paper," Silverstein said, in an interview in advance of the radio show. The inherent superiority of digital data tracking winds up being more an article of faith than a solid argument, he said...