EHR go-live does not adversely impact patient safety, new study finds

While switching to an electronic health records system can create significant workplace challenges during the transitional period, the chaotic go-live, single-day switch does not adversely impact patient safety, according to a new study published in The BMJ.

For the study, researchers examined Medicare data taken from 17 hospitals that implemented a new EHR system from 2011 to 2012. Researchers compared patient outcomes 90 days before and 90 days after the EHR implementation with data from 399 control hospitals from the same referral region

Analysis revealed no variance in the rates of inpatient mortality, adverse safety events and readmissions between hospitals implementing new EHR systems and those in the control group. Also, researchers found no significant difference in hospitals at higher risk to encounter safety issues. These hospitals included those caring for a sicker patient population and those transitioning from paper to electronic records compared to those transitioning between electronic systems.

"Physicians' tremendous frustration in switching to new electronic health records can spill over into concerns that patient care is actually worse because of these systems," said Michael Barnett, MD, assistant professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston and the study's lead author. "Happily, our results suggest that switching to a new system is a challenge that hospitals are prepared to handle safely."

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