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ED Information Systems and Patient Safety

ED Information Systems and Patient Safety

Throughout the United States, emergency department information systems (EDISs) have been developed in an effort to reduce medical errors. These systems are becoming a significant focus of both federal legislation and healthcare reform. “EDISs are an important component of the movement toward improving quality and outcomes with electronic health records,” explains Kevin M. Baumlin, MD, FACEP. Many types of electronic systems perform various functions for EDs throughout the country, but variations in EDISs can impact physician decision making, clinician workflow, communication, and the overall quality of care and patient safety. The common perception is that EDISs may ultimately improve the quality of medical care delivered in hospitals. Unfortunately, as they are currently configured, these systems also present important threats to healthcare quality and patient safety. The Pros & Cons The purpose of EDISs is to decrease practice variability and improve system reliability. “These systems are designed to enhance communication among healthcare providers, facilitate the retrieval of past information, and assist in clinical decision-making,” Dr. Baumlin says. They can help make medical references easily accessible, assist with important calculations, and monitor for potential adverse events. Some have the potential to share medical information across health systems and may help identify epidemics early. The perceived advantages of EDISs are so significant that Congress allocated nearly $30 billion to build incentives for EDs to universally adopt them through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The rush to capitalize on the government’s investment for EDISs, however, led to some unfortunate and unintended consequences. Vendors for EDISs are making efforts to meet new demands by clinicians, healthcare administrators, and government, but the uniqueness of...
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