EHR systems have been receiving increased scrutiny in the past few months due to increasing concerns and complications stemming from EHR system-related “events.” These concerns were reflected in a recent white paper published by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and CMS’ promotion of a seamless exchange of health information through new regulations on EHR standards and certification criteria and Medicare and Medicaid’s incentive program.

Although the EHRs may come with unintentional flaws, research has proven that, when while adhering to meaningful use standards, EHRs typically reduce negative patient outcomes. In fact, a study conducted by Carneige Mellon University Living Analytics Research Centre detailed that EHR adoption accounted for a 27 percent reduction in patient safety events in Pennsylvania hospitals studied.

There is a great promise in the future of EHRs. But, to yield an effective system that ensures quality patient care and eliminates many of the flaws seen today, the entire healthcare community, regulators, professional organizations and health IT industry must come together to contribute their expertise to the process.

The CDC report, The Essential Role of Laboratory Professionals: Ensuring the Safety and Effectiveness of Laboratory Data in Electronic Health Record Systems, stated their belief that clinical labs could play a key part in helping prevent medical errors by:

  1. Engaging in the design, development, and implementation of EHR systems
  2. Guiding and maintaining data integrity and usability to ensure accurately presented results
  3. Partnering with stakeholders to stimulate innovations in EHR technology and usability to reduce data errors.

Like any new, groundbreaking technology, EHR systems will continue to adapt and grow as they become a staple of today’s healthcare landscape. Meeting challenges is an important part of this process. As an industry, the ability to perfect this powerful tool that will ensure safety in every interaction the patient has with the healthcare community is well within our reach.