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VA EMR Mess is Everyone's EMR Mess

January 14, 2009
by Suresh Gunasekaran
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http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090114/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/vets_medical_glitches;_ylt=AuD9AzYTuZFMzGQEicFk25jVJRIF So the VA has had some glitches with their EMR. Nutshell: the EMR in all workflows did not show the current medication orders and in some workflows showed the incorrect order/MAR information. This led some clinicians (relying on the system) to incorrectly administer medications to patients. I really think that this a seminal moment in the industry: A technical glitch in an EMR, that has persisted for some period of time with tangible impact on patient care THAT THE PUBLIC KNOWS ABOUT. I can guarantee you that the VA did not just have the first technical glitch in the history of the industry. I can also guarantee that it is not the first glitch to have a tangible impact on patient's lives. This situation raises some interesting questions: 1. What is a reasonable standard for IT departments in the industry to monitor their EMR environment so that technical glitches do not go undetected for months? 2. What is the responsibility of healthcare organizations to notify their patients when technical glitches have occurred (that materially affect their care)? 3. How should the industry feel about the fact that our systems may fail in certain situations? Do we need FDA approval that our systems have the appropriate stability? 4. What is the burden on vendors if their EMR glitches compromise patient care? I'm sure that there are other more interesting questions as well. I don't have answers for these questions. I've got some opinions. I might even share them. What do you think?

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Suresh Gunasekaran

CIO

Suresh Gunasekaran's blog provides musings from the CIO of an academic health...