Patients Encouraged to Identify Errors in Their EMR

In a move toward “shared accountability,” an increasing number of providers are giving patients convenient access to their electronic medical record (EMR) in the hopes that they will readily notice errors, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article.

Cleveland Clinic, for example, allows patients to securely access most of the information in their EMR through its MyChart portal. Patients can view summaries of recent visits, a list of current medications, and test results as released by their physicians.

Similarly, Geisinger Health System’s MyGeisinger patient portal, used by approximately 70,000 patients, gives patients secure access to their medications, allergies, immunizations, and lab results. The health system’s OpenNotes initiative goes a step further in improving patient-physician collaboration by letting patients review the notes that their doctor wrote about them during or after their appointments—and then add their own notes.

Such access not only gives patients the opportunity to spot mistakes and omissions in their medical history—which they can then communicate to their physicians—but it also helps them become more involved in their health care and improve communication with providers.

Common EMR Errors

Several types of errors can make their way into EMRs. Medication errors commonly identified include:

  • outdated information, such as prescription drugs the patient no longer takes;
  • incorrect dosage information;
  • omission of recently prescribed medications;
  • mistakes in medication allergies; and
  • omission of over-the-counter medications and vitamins.

Other items that might be missing from the EMR are updated lab results and details about symptoms that the patient has reported to his or her physician during a visit.

The seriousness of such errors should not be underestimated. Providers can face legal liability if a patient’s condition deteriorates due to taking the wrong dose of a medication, for example. Severe allergic reactions or dangerous drug interactions can also result from medical record errors.

However, preventing life-threatening mistakes is just one benefit of encouraging patients to review their records.

Improved Patient Engagement

According to a study being conducted by NORC at the University in Chicago in conjunction with Geisinger, there are several advantages to giving patients access to their EMR. Patients can better prepare for their next trip to the doctor by reviewing their medication list, previous lab results, and other data.

Patients who have this type of information become more engaged in their care—and more proactive. They are more likely to spot errors in their records, question their physicians, and reveal information that can improve the quality of their EMR data.

More initiatives to help patients actively manage their care are underway. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology’s Blue Button program, for example, helps patients access their health records electronically to feel more in control of their health and their personal health information.