As I have written at Healthcare Renewal before, computerized physician order entry systems (CPOE's) are known to present risks to patients through induction of medical errors.
This technology is held out to be ready for national diffusion, right up to the POTUS. Per ONC director Blumenthal in the July 13, 2010 NEJM:
The widespread use of electronic health records (EHRs) in the United States is inevitable. EHRs will improve caregivers’ decisions and patients’ outcomes. Once patients experience the benefits of this technology, they will demand nothing less from their providers. Hundreds of thousands of physicians have already seen these benefits in their clinical practice.
Vendors deny major problems with their CPOE and other health IT products.
The true story is a bit more complex.
Fortunately, there are some medical centers who are open and honest about HIT problems. These medical centers seem a rarity. However, those that do share are actually conducting themselves in an honorable and mission-true manner, per Joint Commission Safety Standards, the ethics of the medical profession, and the expectations of the public. They should be commended.
One such example is Munson Medical Center in Michigan.
From the October 2010 "News for Physicians affiliated with Munson Medical Center" newsletter, a large medical center in Northern Michigan, about more than six thousand "issues" with their Cerner CPOE:
POE Program Continues to be Improved, Enhanced
The Provider Order Entry (POE) program continues to be improved. Since implementation in June [four months ago - ed.], more than 6,000 issues have been reported. Issues are defined as an aspect of the program not working as intended [does that include medication and treatment errors and 'near-misses'? - ed.], process issues [can these 'issues' kill? - ed.], education needs, or PowerPlan [Cerner - ed.] change requests.
About 600 of these remain open. Issues are prioritized by the POE Team and addressed according to existing standards.
One wonders how many of those 6,000, and how many of the 600 remaining "issues" fall into categories of "likely to cause patient harm in short term if uncorrected" or "may cause in patient harm in medium or long term."
I note that Cerner CPOE is not a new product, nor are similar products from other vendors also afflicted with long lists of "issues." That there could be more than 6,000 "issues" at a new site suggests deep rooted, severe problems with CPOE specifically and health IT design and implementation processes in general.
Did patient harm result here or at other CPOE sites (using products of any vendor, not just this one) that had hundreds or thousands of "issues"? We may never know.
That national rollout is mandated as if this technology were proven, safe, and plug and play is a scandal of UK NPfIT-like proportions.