Electronic Records Increase Incidence of Overlooked Test Results


By: Mary Ellen Lighthiser
Many health care providers have begun to shift towards digitizing health care records in an effort to streamline their clerical duties and free up more time to spend with patients. While the use of electronic medical files has improved medical care in a number of ways, a recent study reported in Time Magazine suggests that a hidden peril of physicians’ increasing reliance on technology in tracking patient care is the tendency to overlook electronic test results. According to a survey of 2,590 primary care practitioners, “a third reported missing alerts about test results from a electronic health record notification system designed to inform them when a patient has abnormal test results.” This is due in part to the number of alerts received on a daily basis, which the vast majority of physicians found to be excessive. To avoid the potential for liability that may attend such an oversight, it is advised that a patient’s various health care providers coordinate a system for responding to alerts, that personnel be trained properly in using the systems, that electronic medical systems be designed with clear interfaces, and that patients be encouraged to remain proactive in seeking the results of any medical tests conducted.