Saturday, October 24, 2009

Electronic medical records systems are not classified as medical devices -- This may have serious consequences.

This is an interim post. The promised post on ontologies that benefit from fuzzy or probability-based logic is coming.

"We wouldn't want to go back, but Electronic Health Records (EHR) are still in need of significant improvement."

-Christine Sinsky, an internist
in Dubuque, Iowa, whose practice implemented electronic records six years ago.

More than one in five hospital medication errors reported last year -- 27,969 out of 133,662 -- were caused at least partly by computers, according to data submitted by 379 hospitals to Quantros Inc., a health-care information company. Paper-based errors have caused 10,954 errors, the data showed.

Between 2006 and 2008, computer errors also contributed to 31 deaths or serious injuries -- twice as many as were caused by paper errors, although numbers of these serious cases were decreasing, Quantros said.

Legal experts say it is impossible to know how often health IT mishaps occur. Electronic medical records are not classified as medical devices, so hospitals are not required to report problems. In fact, many health IT contracts do not allow hospitals to discuss computer flaws, according to Sharona Hoffman, a professor of law and bioethics at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

"Doctors who report problems can lose their jobs," Hoffman said. "Hospitals don't have any incentive to do so and may be in breach of contract if they do. That sort of secrecy puts the patient at risk."

Click here to see the complete Washington Post article