Physician viewpoint: EHR gag clauses perpetuate patient safety hazards

Gag clauses in EHR vendor contracts prevent the industry from adequately discussing and addressing EHR usability issues that pose risks to patient safety, according to cardiologist John Levinson, MD, PhD, of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. 

In an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, Dr. Levinson argues that EHR usability issues are more than "a pain in the neck" for physicians — they pose real risks to patient safety. He cites 2018 studies in Health Affairs and JAMA that link poor EHR usability to patient harm.

"The problem is that some EHR vendors have such overwhelming market power that they insert gag clauses into their contracts with hospitals, ostensibly to protect their intellectual property. In effect, these vendors have prohibited the free exchange of information — including discussion of safety-related issues," Dr. Levinson writes. "This can't continue."

These challenges can be fixed, Dr. Levinson notes. "What's needed is open and uncensored medical literature allowing clinicians to publish our experiences, drugmakers and device manufacturers to learn how to improve their products, and healthcare providers to learn how to implement them better," he writes.

Read the full column here.


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