Viewpoint: EHR vendor-provided continuing education may cause bias among physicians

To avoid EHR software and technology bias, vendors should not be able to offer continuing medical education activities and presentations to physicians, according to Christoph Lehmann, MD.

In a perspective article for the journal Academic Medicine, Dr. Lehmann, a pediatrics and population and data sciences professor at Dallas-based UT Southwestern Medical Center, along with other researchers argued that education of physicians should be agnostic of EHR vendors so software decisions are made in the best interest of patients.

"When EHR vendors provide CME, bias and the need for the physician to reciprocate the favor make it more likely that physicians make decisions on EHR purchasing, updating, and maintenance that are not in the best interest of patients or society," Dr. Lehmann said, according to a Feb. 12 news release. "When pharmaceutical companies previously provided free continuing CME to physicians, physicians changed prescribing behavior, and the effect for patients and the healthcare system proved detrimental."

The Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education does not include EHR vendors in its rules that prohibit CME sponsorship opportunities to organizations that produce, market, re-sell or distribute patient-centric healthcare services and products, according to the report. Vendor contracts also often include nondisclosure clauses, which prevent physicians from disclosing flaws in EHR software.

Dr. Lehmann and the other researchers recommended that the ACCME designate EHR vendors as commercial interests to avoid biases that may arise through CME as well as anchoring, which allows one company's product to be presented without any mention of other competitors' solutions.

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