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Unanticipated consequences of health-care information technology

PHILADELPHIA — Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) have developed a framework to help hospital managers, physicians, and nurses handle the tough challenges of implementing health information technology (HIT) by directly addressing the unintended consequences that undermine safety and quality.

As documented in a 2005 JAMA article by Penn’s Ross Koppel, PhD, computerized physician order entries, CPOE for short, reduce medication errors due to transcription or hand-writing deficiencies but produce many unintended consequences. For example, in some CPOE systems, physicians must enter the patient’s weight before ordering some types of medications. Physicians will often insert an estimated weight just to order the desired medication, without being able to indicate it as an estimation. That number is then used by subsequent physicians for medications requiring more careful weight measurements. Koppel is the Principal Investigator of an AHRQ-supported study of hospital workplace culture and medication error at Penn’s Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics and a faculty member in Penn’s Sociology Department.

In this new paper, co-authors Koppel, AHRQ’s Michael I. Harrison, PhD, and Shirly Bar-Lev, PhD, from the Ruppin Academic Center, Israel, show managers and clinicians how to avoid or catch unintended consequences before they cause lasting harm. This study appears in the September issue of the Journal of American Medical Informatics Association – JAMIA.

Use of sophisticated HIT in hospitals is increasing dramatically. In addition to CPOE, other examples in which unintended consequences can occur are decision support systems and electronic medical records. Health care facilities are investing millions of dollars in health care information technology as they seek to improve patient care, safety, efficiency, and cost savings. Yet the results are often disappointing, say the researchers.

“Managers and clinicians need to prevent more undesirable side effects and recognize unforeseeable consequences early on,” says lead author Harrison. “Then they can take steps to remedy them before damage mounts.”

The authors demonstrate how new HIT changes workplace processes and how practitioners alter these technologies during use. The authors call their new paradigm “Interactive Sociotechnical Analysis.”

“We are strong proponents of HIT,” say Harrison and Koppel. “But introducing HIT is not like adding a fax machine. HIT involves a whole set of activities and interactions with existing IT, people, the built environment, and with other systems. These interactions generate unpredictable developments. We map these developments to inspire greater awareness of IT implementation problems and increased action to improve new IT systems.”

“Decision makers are taking unnecessary risks if they wait for HIT projects to run for a year or two before doing a post-hoc evaluation,” observes Harrison. “Real time evaluations can reveal unintended consequences as they emerge, allowing remedial action to be taken.”

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This release can be viewed at http://www.pennhealth.com/news

PENN Medicine is a $3.5 billion enterprise dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. PENN Medicine consists of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (founded in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System.

Penn’s School of Medicine is currently ranked #3 in the nation in U.S.News & World Report’s survey of top research-oriented medical schools; and, according to most recent data from the National Institutes of Health, received over $379 million in NIH research funds in the 2006 fiscal year. Supporting 1,400 fulltime faculty and 700 students, the School of Medicine is recognized worldwide for its superior education and training of the next generation of physician-scientists and leaders of academic medicine.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System includes three hospitals — its flagship hospital, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, rated one of the nation’s “Honor Roll” hospitals by U.S.News & World Report; Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation’s first hospital; and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center — a faculty practice plan; a primary-care provider network; two multispecialty satellite facilities; and home care and hospice.

Contact: Karen Kreeger
karen.kreeger@uphs.upenn.edu
215-349-5658
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

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September 18, 2007 Posted by | Electronic Health Records, Global Health Vision, Global News, Health, Health Information Technology, Medical History, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Washington DC City Feed | 2 Comments

Study shows an electronic medical records system can pay for itself within 16 months

CHICAGO (July 12, 2007) — A new study to be published in the July issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons shows that one academic medical center recouped its investment in electronic health records within 16 months. The new analysis counters concerns of health care providers reluctant to invest in electronic medical records systems.

The widespread loss of paper medical records in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina is one of several factors behind the recent push to get surgeons and other health care providers to go electronic, according to David A. Krusch, MD, FACS, of the University of Rochester Department of Surgery and co-author of the study.

“Health care providers most frequently cite cost as primary obstacle to adopting an electronic medical records system. And, until this point, evidence supporting a positive return on investment for electronic health records technologies has been largely anecdotal,” said Dr. Krusch.

The study measured the return on investment of installing electronic health records at five ambulatory offices representing 28 providers within the University of Rochester (NY) Medical Center. Starting in November 2003, the offices implemented a Touchworks EHR system from Chicago-based Allscripts over the next five months. The study compared the cost of activities such as pulling charts, creating new charts, filing time, support staff salary, and transcription when done electronically in the third quarter of 2005, versus the cost of those same activities performed manually in the third quarter of 2003.

The University of Rochester Medical Center estimated that the new electronic medical records system reduced costs by $393,662 per year, nearly two-thirds of that coming from a sharp reduction in the time required to manually pull charts. Given that its electronic system cost $484,577 to install and operate, it took the University of Rochester Medical Center 16 months to recoup its investment. After the first year, it cost about $114,016 annually to operate the new system, which translates to a savings of $279,546 a year for the medical center, or $9,983 per provider.

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The complete study, “A Pilot Study to Document the Return on Investment for Implementing an Ambulatory Electronic Health Record at an Academic Medical Center”, will appear in the July issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons. In addition to Krusch, Dara L. Grieger, MD, of the University of Rochester Department of Surgery and Stephen H. Cohen, MN, CPE, also co-authored the article.

The American College of Surgeons is a scientific and educational organization of surgeons that was founded in 1913 to raise the standards of surgical practice and to improve the care of the surgical patient. The College is dedicated to the ethical and competent practice of surgery. Its achievements have significantly influenced the course of scientific surgery in America and have established it as an important advocate for all surgical patients. The College has more than 71,000 members and it is the largest organization of surgeons in the world. For more information, visit http://www.facs.org.

Contact: Sally Garneski
pressinquiry@facs.org
Weber Shandwick Worldwide

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