Capitol Correspondence - 03.25.19

Learning from Others’ Lessons: Harmful Challenges with Electronic Health Records Uncovered

Share this page

ANCOR is sharing this article by Kaiser Health News (KHN) because ANCOR members have expressed interest in increasing the use of electronic health records in the disability space because of the widely-understood benefits of medical and care professionals being able to easily share records across team to ensure everyone is on the same page when supporting an individual. This recent article is informative about challenges surrounding this technology that have not been shared broadly with the public before. The KHN article cited below, which opens with the potentially avoidable death of a woman because an electronic record system did not transmit an order for a test, has spurred departing Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb to call for stricter scrutiny of electronic health records.

As written by KHN:

“Electronic health records were supposed to do a lot: make medicine safer, bring higher-quality care, empower patients, and yes, even save money. Boosters heralded an age when researchers could harness the big data within to reveal the most effective treatments for disease and sharply reduce medical errors. Patients, in turn, would have truly portable health records, being able to share their medical histories in a flash with doctors and hospitals anywhere in the country — essential when life-and-death decisions are being made in the ER.

But 10 years after President Barack Obama signed a law to accelerate the digitization of medical records — with the federal government, so far, sinking $36 billion into the effort — America has little to show for its investment. KHN and Fortune spoke with more than 100 physicians, patients, IT experts and administrators, health policy leaders, attorneys, top government officials and representatives at more than a half-dozen EHR vendors, including the CEOs of two of the companies. The interviews reveal a tragic missed opportunity: Rather than an electronic ecosystem of information, the nation’s thousands of EHRs largely remain a sprawling, disconnected patchwork. Moreover, the effort has handcuffed health providers to technology they mostly can’t stand and has enriched and empowered the $13-billion-a-year industry that sells it.


Though the software has reduced some types of clinical mistakes common in the era of handwritten notes, Raj Ratwani, a researcher at MedStar Health in Washington, D.C., has documented new patterns of medical errors tied to EHRs that he believes are both perilous and preventable. ‘The fact that we’re not able to broadcast that nationally and solve these issues immediately, and that another patient somewhere else may be harmed by the very same issue — that just can’t happen,’ he said.


Seema Verma, the current chief of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which oversees the EHR effort today, shudders at the billions of dollars spent building software that doesn’t share data — an electronic bridge to nowhere. “Providers developed their own systems that may or may not even have worked well for them,” she told KHN and Fortune in an interview last month, ‘but we didn’t think about how all these systems connect with one another. That was the real missing piece.’”