Bridging the Data Gap: Reporting of Health IT Events Is Improving—Gradually

April 1, 2013 | Evaluations & Guidance


Health IT is an essential component of high-quality patient care. It has the potential to provide easier access to data, streamline communication, engage patients, and reduce certain errors, such as transcription mistakes caused by poor handwriting on paper charts. However, the technology is not foolproof. While reducing some types of errors, it can actually increase susceptibility to other types (e.g., selection errors influenced by the configuration of a list), and can open the door to entirely new classes of errors (e.g., failure of the user to change a prepopulated default value).

Unfortunately, according to a 2011 report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), there is a lack of reporting data on the hazards and risks associated with health IT. IOM states that this hinders ongoing efforts to improve the safety of health IT systems, and ECRI Institute agrees. To achieve safer use of electronic health records (EHRs) and other health IT systems, it is essential to have high-quality information on the types of errors that occur with such systems, as well as on which of these errors are most likely to cause patient harm.

A recent report from the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority is generating a great deal of interest in the health IT community because it helps address IOM’s desire for more information about the scope and nature of health IT risks and hazards that occur in U.S. hospitals. The study, which was published in the December 2012 issue of the Authority’s Pennsylvania Patient Safety Advisory, analyzed EHR-related patient safety incidents and near-miss events reported through Pennsylvania’s mandatory reporting system. The authors applied a classification taxonomy developed for health IT by Magrabi et al. (2012) to a queried sample of 3,099 health-IT-relevant reports in the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Reporting System (PA-PSRS) database. The study is one of the first large-scale surveys of frontline-caregiver-reported errors related to the use of...

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