When it comes to electronic health records, a lack of planning could lead to patient death, which is why hospitals must implement policies and procedures to reduce EHR risks.

While the health IT movement is gaining traction across the nation, it still has a long way to go and issues still exist within electronic health records, says Trish Lugtu, associate director of research at MMIC Insurance.

Speaking at an educational session at HIMSS16 last week, Lugtu said that in the past, people were not paying attention to health IT and it “scared her.” As an example, she shared research on two patients who died as a result of errors within their records, including a patient who died following an anaphylactic reaction to known allergies because notifications were turned off in the patient record, and a patient who died following a failure to diagnose and treat a small bowel obstruction when an X-ray was not routed correctly.

To overcome these challenges, healthcare IT executives need to form partnerships and collaborations with the right people, including risk management, Lugtu said.

Three steps to reduce risks related to EHR usage include:

Use a common language. Both IT and medical fields use a lot of acronyms, some of which have different meanings. “Languages [often] don’t sync up and we don’t realize it,” she said.

Establish rights and responsibilities. To date, there has been good work done on setting rules on what should and shouldn’t be done within an EHR. But it is important that rights and responsibilities between the clinician and IT team be clearly discussed. “To improve healthcare quality, a balance must be achieved,” she said. As an example, if clinicians want to access records, there must be assurances that they follow security practices.

A simplified approach. This involves not missing issues and electronic routing of data. It involves events that people don’t think about, Lugtu said. “It is all components of how to use technology, how we interact with technology, and how we communicate with technology,” she explained. “Make sure you have those. Make sure you have paper forms and downtime procedures.”

In the end, it is about planning. “Find partners in the organization to collaborate, so IT and clinicians are at the table,” she said. “Failing to plan is planning to fail. If we are not aware of these things and don’t have a plan to protect these issues, we will remain in the status quo,” she added. “These are not unintended consequences; these are patient lives.”

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