How do electronic health records help reduce medication errors?

The electronic health record (EHR) is a digital record of a patient’s health history that may be made up of records from many locations and/or sources, such as hospitals, providers, clinics, and public health agencies. For example, an EHR might include immunization status, allergies, patient demographics, lab test and radiology results, advanced directives, current medications taken, and current health care appointments. The EHR is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and has built in safeguards to assure patient health information confidentiality and security.

In May 2003, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services asked the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to provide guidance on the key care delivery–related capabilities of an EHR system. According to Bordowitz (2008), the IOM report stated that an EHR system has eight core functions and should include the following:

  • Longitudinal collection of electronic health information for and about people, in which health information is defined as information pertaining to the health of an individual or health care provided to an individual.
  • Immediate electronic access to person- and population-level information by only authorized users.
  • Provision of knowledge and decision support that enhance the quality, safety, and efficiency of patient care.
  • upport of efficient processes for health care delivery. Critical building blocks of an EHR system are the EHRs maintained by providers (e.g., hospitals, nursing homes, ambulatory settings) and by individuals (also called personal health records).

Hospital Safety Score
Electronic health records (EHRs) have potential to reduce medication errors in hospitals. EHRs can help keep all the relevant information about your family history, your medicines, your allergies, and other conditions at the fingertips of your healthcare team. Electronic health records can help minimize medication spelling errors and illegible handwriting, both of which can lead to mistakes in drug orders. If the system includes electronic -prescribing, EHRs can alert clinicians to medications being used together that may cause a harmful interaction.

Be sure to remember that even when the best electronic medical record systems are used, medication errors still do happen. You should still ask questions, keep track of your medications, and keep a medication list on hand as backup to the hospital’s electronic records.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.