DeSalvo defends safety of EHRs

Twitter icon
Facebook icon
LinkedIn icon
e-mail icon
Google icon
 - Karen DeSalvo

Karen DeSalvo, MD, MPH, MSc, national coordinator for health information technology, has expressed her displeasure at a recent article in the  Boston Globe suggesting that there are a number of dangers associated with the “rush” towards implementing EHRs.

In a letter to the editor published in the Globe this week, DeSalvo criticized the newspaper for failing to mention any examples of patients and their healthcare providers benefiting from the use of health IT, including EHRs.

“Such success are playing out across the country daily, including in Boston, and their omission from the article incompletely portrays the important role of electronic health records in improving patient safety and outcomes,” DeSalvo wrote.

According to the article, the rush by physicians and doctors to “cash in” on EHR incentive payments has resulted in the implementation of systems that are “complex, balky, unwieldy and error-prone,” and have caused serious, and in some cases, life-threatening, adverse events.

For example, the Globe pointed to a study of malpractice claims by CRICO, a malpractice insurance group, that found 147 cases in which EHRs contributed to adverse events in 2012-13.

DeSalvo wrote that a fully electronic health system can identify and prevent potential medical errors and that the Office of the National Coordinator is addressing the issue of safety and electronic records by, among other things, sponsoring a report by the Institute of Medicine that was even referenced in the Globe article.

She also referenced a proposed plan to create a health IT safety center, which would assist in the voluntary reporting of health IT-related medical errors. “Many patient advocates, medical professionals, and other stakeholders have expressed support for this approach,” she wrote.

DeSalvo concluded by arguing that the “hundreds of thousands of providers successfully and safely using electronic health records today show that health IT can, and does, improve health and healthcare.”