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Leaders: EMRs Aren't the Answer to Safety Issues

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media, June 7, 2011

Poor communication, such as exchanging important clinical information about patients during shift changes, is the largest barrier to achieving patient safety goals, healthcare leaders say. And electronic medical records systems? Well, despite the fact that they're an effective tool to improve datasharing and, in turn, quality, healthcare leaders aren't exactly raving about how much they're helping.

Numbers from the most recent HealthLeaders Media Intelligence Report, The Drive to Patient Safety, suggests leaders are underestimating—or discounting altogether—just how much electronic data can improve communications.

When asked to describe the patient safety benefit that electronic medical records have provided their healthcare organizations, 31% of respondents said that IT has been an integral part of patient safety and that their organization is seeing gains because of it.

But only slightly fewer respondents (25%) described patient safety gains from IT as "episodic." Another 16% were even more down on EMRs—saying they have not seen the patient safety gains they hoped to gain from their IT platform.

The rest couldn't say one way or the other because they don't yet have an EMR. But here's another twist to think about. Although 28% of respondents said they don't have an EMR, only 10% of respondents identified that lack of electronic medical records as their biggest stumbling block to adopting a strong patient safety program.

In other words, those who don't yet have an EMR don't see that as such a big deal when it comes to patient safety.

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