Mistakes caused by electronic health records are more prevalent than proponents of the technology believe, according to a leading critic of the nationwide push to adopt EHRs, the Kaiser Health News/Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
Health care providers increasingly are adopting EHRs amid increased federal funding for health IT and findings from government officials and researchers that computers can reduce mistakes and boost efficiency in the health care industry.
However, Scot Silverstein — a physician, a Drexel University adjunct professor of health care informatics and former director of scientific information for Merck — has been an outspoken opponent of the rapid transition to EHRs.
According to Silverstein, the notion that EHRs prevent more mistakes than they cause is not proven. He argues that many EHR-related mistakes might go unreported because the government does not require providers to report such problems.
He said, “We’re in the midst of a mania right now” to switch to EHRs. He added, “We know [EHR adoption] causes harm, and we don’t even know the level of magnitude.”
According to Silverstein, a growing collection of evidence suggests that poorly designed software can obscure clinical data and generate incorrect treatment orders, among other problems.
For example, malfunctioning software at Lifespan hospital group in 2011 led to the printing of orders for the wrong medication regimen for patients, he said.
Silverstein recommends that all EHR systems undergo rigorous testing under federal supervision before being used in situations where a patient’s life could be at risk.
Reaction to Silverstein’s Comments
An Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT spokesperson said that it is “important to listen to all the voices” in the discussion of EHRs.
George Lundberg — a physician and editor-at-large for MedPage Today — said Silverstein “is an essential critic of the field.” Lundberg said, “It’s too easy for those of us in medicine to get excessively enthusiastic about things that look like they’re going to work out really well. Sometimes we go too far and don’t see the downside of things.”
The HIMSS Electronic Health Record Association declined to comment on Silverstein’s remarks (Hancock, Kaiser Health News/Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/18).