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ONC Data Brief: Physicians Report EHRs Prevent Medication Errors

September 5, 2014
by Gabriel Perna
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Three times as many physicians report that electronic health records (EHRs) are preventing a potential medication error than causing one, according to a newly released data brief from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC).

The data brief used the 2013 National Ambulatory Medical Care Physician Workflow Survey to assess the physician-reported impacts of EHR use – both positive and negative – on quality and patient safety related outcomes. More than half of the approximately 11,000 physician respondents reported that the EHR alerted them to a critical laboratory value and 45 percent said it alerted them to a potential medical error. Only 15 percent said it led to a medical error.

In terms of care, nearly half of respondents said the EHR alerted them to provide preventive care. In contrast, only 14 percent said the EHR led them to overlook something important because of too many alerts. More than half of the respondents said the EHR facilitated direct communication with other providers in their care team. Thirty-nine percent said the EHR led to less effective communication during visits. Across the board, there seemed to be more positive than negative, when it came to EHRs and patient safety.

The data brief comes at a time when EHRs are under fire for being a burden to patient safety. A recent mainstream news article reported on how there is not mandatory reporting required from the government on injuries, deaths, and unsafe conditions from EMRs. It implied that EHRs were often the cause of adverse events and medication error. This drew the attention of Karen DeSalvo, M.D., the National Coordinator for Health IT at the Department of Health and Human Services.

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