Monday, March 16, 2015

An ironically titled session by ECRI Institute: "Would You Bet Your Mother's Life on the Safety of Your EHR?"

An ironically titled session by ECRI Institute "Would You Bet Your Mother's Life on the Safety of Your EHR?" is being held at the annual Health Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) meeting by Ronni Solomon, JD and William Marella, MBA of the ECRI Institute on April 13, 2015 (

It is announced in the HIMSS press release below in Healthcare IT News.

I should probably be the keynote speaker to that session, as I am suitably qualified to speak of that exact issue.  My mother and I lost such a "bet" (

It's about time these topics were surfaced, but I still feel there is far too little public awareness of the risks of bad health IT. 
Ridding EHRs of dangerous, often undetectable, bad data
March 13, 2015
As the healthcare industry continues toward its goal of making all patient health records electronically accessible, a health system’s safety increasingly is determined by the quality of its EHR implementation.

Last November ECRI Institute, a non-profit organization that uses scientific methods to test medical products, rated “incorrect or missing data in electronic health records and other health IT systems” as the No. 2 hazard that will put patients at risk in 2015.

“Once inaccurate data gets into the electronic health record, it’s hard to get it out,” said Ronni Solomon, executive vice president and general counsel for ECRI Institute. “That’s a challenge, and the less detectable it is, the higher the risk. You don’t know it’s in there.”

Such incorrect information probably has far more impact than it did on paper, I believe; computer output is often uncritically taken as gospel, and is often cut-and-pasted to newer records without patient interaction, thus propagating an error of omission, commission or data loss or corruption (due to malfunction).

The negative impact of bad data in electronic health records is both immediate and long-lasting. “In the short-run, bad data in the system limits the effectiveness of clinical communications and the effectiveness of decision support,” added William Marella, ECRI’s executive director, PSO operations and analytics. “And basically it undermines people’s confidence in the system.”

Especially the clinicians' confidence, which is already low (e.g., see my Jan. 28, 2015 post "Multiple medical specialty societies now go on record about hazards of EHR misdirection, mismanagement and sloppy hospital computing" at

Solomon and Marella will conduct an educational session at HIMSS15 in April on how healthcare organizations can apply safety science to IT and informatics to improve patient safety.

The first step they can take is to strip control of critical health IT decisions from the business-IT personnel and put heath IT under the aegis of medical leadership, especially medical leadership that contains formally-educated Medical Informatics and related professionals.  (This admittedly and unfortunately has a very low chance of happening due to hospital politics and power structures.)

“Would You Bet Your Mother's Life on the Safety of Your EHR?” is designed to help attendees create a framework for planning and implementing IT strategies, processes and tools to increase the safety of healthcare patients.

Both Ms. Solomon and Mr. Marella are aware of what happened to my mother.  I wonder out loud if the title is based on, at least in part, that incident.

... “The promise of these systems is that they’re going to make the health care system more efficient and ultimately more safe,” Marella said. “Now the administrators in hospitals and health systems that have financed these systems want a return on their investment.”

Perhaps the administrators should have done due diligence on the realities of this technology before investing the money.

The session will cover how organizations can: establish an infrastructure for identifying and responding to patient safety problems; assess safety challenges facing health IT users and implementers; identify partnerships that can accelerate safety improvements; and analyze opportunities to use informatics to prevent adverse events.

“What we’re trying to do in this talk is get in front of the IT leaders of these institutions and help them understand where patient safety people are coming from and how we can bridge these two silos within the health system, because they will both be more effective working together,” Marella said.

I add that all of these goals should have been met prior to a national rollout and, at each organization, prior to subjecting patients to these technologies, but I speak common sense, which in medicine is no longer common.  Thus, sessions like this one in 2015.

Perhaps this could be the theme poster for the session.

-- SS

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Suspect the ECRI suggested the title, subliminally, knowing the deadliness of these devices.