Difficult EHRs Less Likely to Catch Medical Errors
Electronic health records (EHRs) that are difficult to use are less likely to catch medical errors, according to a new report.1
Clinicians often complain that EHRs are cumbersome and tedious to use because of excessive pop-ups and other annoying features. Frustration over an EHR’s design may be a warning that the system is less able to catch medical errors that can harm patients, the study authors noted.
The risk to patient safety should be considered when acquiring or modifying an EHR, says David C. Classen, MD, MS, lead study author and professor in the Division of Clinical Epidemiology at the University of Utah School of Medicine. Classen likens the situation to the problems in the Boeing 737 MAX that led to two airplane crashes in 2018 and 2019. Pilots struggled to use the plane’s software system.
“When a user sits down to order a new medication, if they have to go through too many screens, that’s a real detriment because it slows them down,” Classen explains. “Too many clicks or too many warnings are a very common complaint of the frontline users. That usually indicates there are safety problems, and we just have the data to prove it. If your doc says, ‘This is not a really usable system,’ it’s probably not a safe system, either.”
Complicated EHRs make recruiting nurses and other staff difficult, which worsens the staffing shortage that can threaten patient safety.
“If your system is so unusable, the nurses you’re trying to attract will not come work for you. That’s the angle I think where this will ultimately play out,” Classen notes. “I expect as staffing issues get linked to this, you’ll see more and more hospitals starting to work on this.”
- Classen DC, Longhurst CA, Davis T, et al. Inpatient EHR user experience and hospital EHR safety performance. JAMA Netw Open 2023;6:e2333152.
- David C. Classen, MD, MS, Division of Clinical Epidemiology, University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City. Email: [email protected].
Electronic health records that are difficult to use are less likely to catch medical errors, according to a new report.
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