Home E-Weekly July 12, 2016

EHRs vs. Paper: Pick Your Poison

Published: July 11, 2016

Which is more likely to be accurate: paper charting or electronic health records? It depends on how you're defining accuracy, say researchers. While errors of commission were more common when practitioners used computers, paper saw more errors of omission. Additionally, attending physicians were more than 3 times as likely as residents to make mistakes.

A 2-year retrospective study at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich., compared paper notes created over the course of a year to electronic notes entered the next year, after the hospital's transition to an EHR system.

Documentation errors were more than 5 times as common with EHRs (24.4% vs. 4.4%), but expected physical examination findings were more than twice as likely to be omitted in paper notes (41.2% vs. 17.6%).

Meanwhile, resident physicians were guilty of far fewer documentation errors (5.3% vs. 17.3%) and far fewer omissions (16.8% vs. 33.9%) than attending physicians, which the study's authors attributed to their youth and computer experience. Their findings, they conclude, underscore a need for better training and greater incentives to reduce inaccuracies in EHRs during initial implementation.

Jim Burger

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