CDC on EHR Errors: Enough's Enough

Evan Schuman | Healthcare IT News | July 6, 2014

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not routinely get involved in telling hospitals how to run operations, but with increasing reports of EHR deployment problems, the Atlanta-based operation now sees the need to act. "Some hospital laboratories have legacy information systems that do not even have the ability to use current coding," said Megan Sawchuk, the lead health scientist for CDC's office of public health scientific services, which is in the division of laboratory programs, standards and services.

The problems, though, go way beyond outdated software. There are also issues involving staff time and expertise. One key example is the huge number of codes and the maddening fact that different medical facilities use different codes for the same tests. This is particularly problematic for physicians who work in multiple hospitals and practices. "We have to develop a simpler coding system that balances the clinician’s need to consistently order the right test with the laboratory’s need to show unique aspects of testing when necessary," Sawchuk said. "There are pros and cons on each side, but ultimately we want to make it easy for clinicians to order and interpret the right test for the patient."

Fixing this problem is critical, but the answer isn't obvious. Creating consistent codes will require staff to make a lot of changes. "Staff need to have the time to learn and do the coding. In small settings -- especially rural hospitals—they are very unlikely to have that extra personnel," she said...