By establishing the Electronic Health Record Incentives Program, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) not only wants to help physicians bolster their clinical services, but improve patient outcomes and diagnostics, as well. With access to comprehensive medical information, doctors can make more accurate decisions regarding treatment strategies and provide better care than before.
But the advent of EHR software also aims to reduce medical errors, a common barrier that plagued many practices involved in the continuum of care. Clinical mistakes can lead to misdiagnoses and redundant exams, driving up healthcare costs and hindering doctors’ abilities to treat patients properly.
Limiting instances of malpractice
Beyond extensive medical reporting, EHRs can also help providers avoid costly malpractice suits as a result of administrative mistakes. According to a study from Harvard Medical School and published on The JAMA Network of Internal Medicine, risk factors such as poor communication among doctors, reduced adherence to clinical guidelines and accessing patient information in an untimely manner can all contribute to medical errors to and possible claims of malpractice.
However, the increased documentation requirements of EHRs and higher quality reporting can minimize instances of clinical mistakes.
Integrating images into EHRs
Additionally, a study from Children’s Hospital Colorado showed that putting a patient’s photo in his or her records could lead to reductions in EHR-related medical errors. Published in the journal Pediatrics, the researchers were led by Daniel Hyman, M.D., chief quality officer at the facility.
According to Reuters, Hyman and his colleagues implemented a new quality-improvement program and found that one of the most common medical errors were orders being placed in the wrong person’s chart. To reduce these mistakes, the health system modified its EHR system to display photos of patients that were taken during admission. The results of the study showed a 75 percent decrease in errors, with the remaining 25 percent being attributed to records that lacked an image of the patient.
Experiencing health IT benefits
As evidenced by multiple medical studies, health IT can make significant contributions to healthcare reform. The financial incentives from the federal government have served to get physicians invested in improving the way the American medical practices provide their services to patients.
Yet. the recent year-long delay to ICD-10 that was included in the Protecting Access to Medicare Act has impacted the potential for further reductions in clinical errors. The updated diagnostic code set would allow for increased specificity when documenting medical conditions and various treatment strategies. But with Congress pushing the compliance deadline back to Oct. 1, 2015, doctors must continue to practice focused reporting using their patients’ EHRs.
This technology can be instrumental in bolstering the continuum of care across disparate health systems. For example, when utilizing a service like e-prescribing, the EHR will automatically check for complications between the chosen medication and patients’ own allergies or existing prescriptions. By alerting providers to potential safety problems, EHRs can help doctors avoid serious consequences from medical errors, which leads to better outcomes and lower costs for all stakeholders.