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EMR Safety Warnings at CA Health System Echo Joint Commission's

Scott Mace, for HealthLeaders Media, August 21, 2012

"We're unable to document our medication administration correctly," said Lee Ann Fagen, RN. Last week's testimony centered on the possible harm averted when a nurse realized that the Epic system was recommending a possibly fatal dosage of a heart medication.

Contra Costa County Regional Medical Center also operates a 164-bed hospital, and although the testimony last week centered on outlying clinics at three county detention facilities, sources inside the hospital tell me that EMR-related safety concerns are high within the hospital as well.

Because the health system has a policy forbidding unauthorized contact with the media, I cannot identify them.

Communication woes
But both management and workers agree that communication at the hospital about the new EMR has been inadequate. "Epic is a tool, but it does not replace the skill and the knowledge and the experience of our staff, who are in fact, the most powerful components of our safety system," says Anna Roth, RN, CEO of Contra Costa Health Services. "I'm thankful that our staff is diligent."

That diligence comes at a cost, however. I'm told that some documentation that used to take two hours has been known to take four hours now. That translates either as less time spent at the bedside, or as a labor force that is more overworked than before the EMR went live.

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