Moving patients' medical records from the filing cabinet to the cloud has been the trend in many health care facilities around the U.S. and in some places internationally. The transition allows professionals access to the information from virtually anywhere. It allots them resources to strengthen research, treatment, prevention and diagnosis. Patients can take a picture of a rash and email it to their doctors for a preliminary opinion. Applications exist to help patients absorb the abundance of information relevant to breast cancer. All of these benefits seem good on paper but in reality they are hard to measure because the cost and time that are channeled into this change are great.
The EHRs have been problematic to say the least and deployment is just the tip of the iceberg. Doctors have been worried that patients might take the opinion of their iPhone over the opinion of a doctor, which could result in a serious medical issue. Then there is the risk of security breaches which have boomed since 2009, when hospitals were starting to use EHRs, according to RedSpin.
Prescribing EHRs without knowing the outcomes
Mobile health care is predicted to become an integrated part of doctors' treatment plans by 2017, according to a SANS analyst survey. Risk imposed by insider negligence was the top concern among health care professionals, the source stated. This means that personal medical information is frequently lost because a doctor or physician loses their cell phone that has patient information on it. Analysts surveyed 373 people who were predominately from the United States and worked in IT for health care facilities. The purpose of the research was to explore the changes and challenges the industry faces in regard to the disappearance of its traditional infrastructure. But a little mishap can cause irreversible damage when it comes to health care. Recent incidences have made it clear that health care records could be the wrong place for trial and error. The movement into digitization has been one fell swoop with professionals diving head first into unfamiliar territory. The scope of the risks imposed by EHRs is not completely understood yet, according to the Globe.
Risk too grave
In a case of EHRs gone wrong, a woman was allegedly inaccurately medicated because of EHRs during a trip to the hospital, according to The Boston Globe. The 46-year-old from Weymouth suffered from diabetes and other serious health problems. She was brought to the hospital in the middle of the night and was stabilized. But shortly after a professional noticed she no longer had a pulse and it was discovered that she had a severe drop in her blood glucose which allegedly happened because a mix up in digital health records caused her to receive too much, the lawyer representing the family told the news source.
"The root cause is having two different systems that weren't interacting with each other. It creates human error," said Nicholas Cappiello, a malpractice lawyer at Lubin & Meyer in Boston who represents the family, according to the source. "Essentially, the right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing."
In addition to the risk of death that has occurred due to the rapid and rushed deployment of EHRs, health care professionals have to carry the burden of the legal battles. A recent amendment to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act called 'omnibus' holds doctors and IT service providers directly liable for the breach of health care records. Many organizations don't have the money or access to resources for protection to survive these legal battles. Instead of hospitals having to cut corners to keep up with EHRs which still hold a lot of undiscovered risk, it may be safer to embrace them at a slower pace and continue to rely on paper records. No one wants to make irreversible mistakes.