How EHRs can help address patient safety concerns

Doctor showing tablet to her patient in hospital room-1

Since 2009, ECRI Institute (formerly known as Emergency Care Research Institute) has released its annual list of top 10 patient safety concerns, highlighting issues in healthcare that we, as practitioners, may already know and should keep in mind.

This year’s list also included a set of technical concerns that ECRI raised, related to the problems and opportunities that come with the increased use of EHRs: test result management, early detection and treatment of sepsis, and physician burnout all made the list. 

Because of the emphasis that this year’s ECRI list places on EHRs, it is important to review the tools that MEDITECH gives providers and institutions to address the concerns listed.

Test result management
ECRI Institute reports that patients are concerned about doctors making the right diagnosis and being able to adjust and adapt to changes in their condition, as well as having the tools and knowledge to quickly address challenging hospital-based conditions such as sepsis and IV infections, and to prescribe appropriate courses of antibiotic treatments. These key steps in patient care inform how MEDITECH designs our software.

Our mission to help clinicians get the test or screening information they need and manage their patient appropriately has also led to the development of toolkits that customers can integrate into their EHR.

Each toolkit includes a workflow guide that helps clinicians identify and manage patients for a variety of conditions; a decision log that outlines the clinical responses that an organization needs to consider; a standard content inventory that describes the information delivered with the toolkit; and a recommended build process to guide organizations in adding the toolkit to their EHR.

Once a toolkit is implemented, clinical decision-making becomes more routine and efficient, and patient management more standardized. All of this leads to better outcomes. 

In this way, our toolkits are aimed at optimizing results management: By prompting clinicians to administer the correct tests, and then by standardizing patient management once the results are in. 

Detection and treatment of sepsis

Among the most visible impacts of our toolkits has been our customers’ success in detecting and treating sepsis, the leading cause of death in U.S. hospitals, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. 

The Sepsis Alliance estimates that prompt diagnosis and treatment could prevent up to 80 percent of sepsis deaths, and MEDITECH’s toolkits are making that possible.

We have some excellent customer success stories to share — including Frederick Memorial Hospital’s use of our sepsis toolkit that reduced sepsis mortality by an impressive 65 percent.

Frederick Memorial’s Debra O’Connell and Lauren Small explained in a recent PSQH column that aligning their sepsis response to MEDITECH’s toolkit guidelines, creating order sets for inpatients and ED patients, and using the EHR to generate repeat lactate orders for clinicians to review all contributed to their achievements.

As a result, O’Connell and Small wrote, FMH has become “a recognized leader in the fight against sepsis” and reached HIMSS Stage 7 designation, based in part on their success in addressing sepsis.

Addressing physician burnout

At MEDITECH, we also acknowledge the role that EHRs can have in physician burnout — too many clicks, too many screens, too many hours spent documenting. 

Cutting documentation-related costs has also been a major initiative for us — and we’ve seen excellent results with Expanse, including Golden Valley’s recent announcement that they’ve reduced transcription by 70 percent by pairing MEDITECH’s documentation module with the Dragon system, saving time and money. 

We’re also working on innovations like ambient listening, where a doctor can dictate orders to the computer and review them for accuracy following the patient visit.

Working toward better patient care

Our ultimate aim at MEDITECH is to provide an EHR that gets the clinician’s focus away from the computer and back to the patient. That’s where the satisfaction lies for doctors and staff; that’s why people go into medicine.

We also know there’s still work to do in addressing the same kinds of basic patient concerns that have always been present in healthcare.

And as ECRI Institute explains, its survey results — developed from a review of some 2.8 million adverse event reports — are meant to be “a starting point for conducting patient safety discussions and setting priorities,” helping healthcare organizations identify where they may need to improve and create strategies to address those needs.

We continue to work toward setting and addressing those priorities, so that doctors and their staff can do what they’re trained to do: Treat patients safely and effectively.


See the MEDITECH hospitals named to the CHIME Most Wired list for 2019.

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Topics: EHR, Patients

Written by Steven Jones, MD, Lead Physician Informaticist, MEDITECH

Steven Jones, MD, MPH has been a Board-Certified Family Practitioner since 1999. His experience includes the full range of family practice — obstetrics, pediatrics, adolescent, adult, and geriatric medicine — whether delivered in the inpatient, outpatient, or nursing home setting. In late 2011, Dr. Jones joined MEDITECH as our lead informatics physician. In that role, he now is responsible for the development of the user experience for all of MEDITECH's physician-facing products. He also serves as the lead clinical adviser for MEDITECH's Patient Safety team, playing a central role in all quality reviews. He plays an active role on MEDITECH's Patient Safety Review Board, participates in multiple other clinical projects, and maintains his practice as a Family Practitioner in southern New Hampshire.