As EHR Adoption Rises, Experts Raise Concerns About Safety of Systems


As more physicians adopt electronic health record systems, experts are raising concerns about the safety of the technology, the Boston Globe reports.

EHR Adoption Rising

Experts note that EHR adoption has grown considerably in recent years, partly as a result of the 2009 federal economic stimulus package (Conaboy, Boston Globe, 4/30). Under the stimulus package, health care providers who demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHR systems can qualify for Medicaid and Medicare incentive payments.

In 2011, more than half of U.S. office-based physicians had adopted an EHR system, according to a recent study published in the journal Health Affairs. Of those physicians, about one-third had an EHR system that could perform at least basic functions, the study found (Decker et al., Health Affairs, April 2012).

Safety Concerns

As EHR adoption becomes more widespread, some experts say the health IT industry should place more emphasis on ensuring the safety of EHR systems.

They note that EHR systems can contribute to:

  • Glitches in ordering medications or tests; and
  • Technology errors that disrupt a physician's workflow.

Hesitancy To Address EHR Safety Concerns

However, experts note that some health IT stakeholders have been reluctant to focus on EHR safety issues out of fear that physicians will be discouraged from adopting the technology.

Former National Coordinator for Health IT David Blumenthal said, "The sensitivity that people feel about it reflects, I think, their concern that we could stop the momentum and that we won’t get to the point that most of the Western world has gotten to, where the electronic systems are routine" (Boston Globe, 4/30).

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