Mi-Ok Kim, Enrico Coiera, Farah Magrabi

What’s the research –
This research examined all studies published from January 2004 – December 2015 that reported, amongst other things, problems affecting usability, decision-making, care processes and patient outcomes when using electronic medical record systems.

Why it’s important –
With current investment in information technology in healthcare across Australia, these electronic systems disrupt clinical workflow and can cause clinicians to make new and unforeseen errors that can lead to patient harm. The ability for health IT to live up to its promise of improving healthcare requires a better understanding of these new sources of error. While many studies tend to focus on the overall effect of IT on patient outcomes, this research takes a deep dive to precisely pin-point the stages in the workflow where the problematic effects of IT can occur.

What have we learned –
The use of a value chain framework to describe the problems with health IT provided a simple yet powerful way to pinpoint specific threats to patient safety. It identified the work flow step impacted by an IT problem, as well as the many stages through which information errors can then propagate. Poor data quality was observed as a contributor to the IT problems. If it were possible to achieve agreement on the way in which we describe and classify information errors, then organisations with disparate IT systems may be able to collaborate to identify and address these collectively.

Who should read this paper –
Stakeholders using and supporting information system would benefit from the findings. In particular, those involved in evaluations of incidents; trainers; benefit realisation managers and change champions/managers would be advised to take note of this timely research and to consider contributing to the baseline. Also, those involved in, or contemplating purchasing a new and/or optimising an EMR.

To read the entire journal article, click here.

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Despite the promise of health IT, problems continue to be reported.