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Government seeks greater oversight of electronic health records

Earlier this month, the federal government issued somewhat of an ultimatum to medical care providers and the software companies that create, install and maintain their computerized patient data systems. Either come up with a system for voluntarily reporting errors and issued with electronic health records, the government said, or we will do it for you.

Electronic health records, or EHRs, have grown in popularity in recent years after the government offered Medicare payment incentives to hospitals and medical centers that installed computerized systems. Although it would seem that they would improve patient care and prevent medical errors, that has not always been the case. EHRs can cause delayed or improper treatment or incorrect prescriptions, among other errors, if they malfunction or are used improperly.

In order to minimize these errors, patient safety advocates have pushed for greater oversight of EHRs and better reporting of errors that result from their use in order for those errors to be prevented in the future and those responsible to be held responsible. Currently, software companies that develop and install EHRs require medical providers to sign contracts that absolve the companies of any liability in connection with their software, which is something that advocates say needs to be discontinued.

Under the plan proposed by the government, the parties that certify EHR software will be required to develop tracking and reporting plans for errors that occur in connection with the software. In addition, the government is asking accrediting organizations to develop standards for the use of EHRs. It remains to be seen whether those things will happen, but we will continue to update our blog with any new developments in this area.

Source: Kaiser Health News, "HHS Stops Short Of Calling For Safety Regulation Of Digital Records," Jay Hancock, Dec. 21, 2012

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