With healthcare’s continuing shift towards electronic health records (or EHRs), interoperability between systems and devices is a key driver for achieving successful communication between all parties in the healthcare environment. For patients, this means our health information must be available to anyone who may treat us, presented in a meaningful and value-driven manner. Implementing an EHR system, in many cases, can be a very complicated task which requires coordination between multiple disciplines inside healthcare. Although migrating to an electronic health system is a step forward to process optimization and efficiency, it can be a driver towards over-dependency and reliability for staff members in their everyday work.
Following the Ebola case at Texas Health, the Dallas hospital had initially stated that the hospital’s electronic health record had failed to admit Thomas Eric Duncan, an American unknowingly infected with the virus. During that time, Mr. Duncan’s health information was not passed along to other care
providers via their EHR system. This caused physicians not to receive his travel history due to a “flawed” setup in its health record system. This was all later retracted by the hospital in a statement made by Texas Health Resources:
“We would like to clarify a point made in the statement released earlier in the week. As a standard part of the nursing process, the patient's travel history was documented and available to the full care team in the electronic health record (EHR), including within the physician’s workflow. There was no flaw in the EHR in the way the physician and nursing portions interacted related to this event.”
The confusion as to the root-cause of the issue is an alarming example of the lack of visibility engineers and quality experts can come across in the processes of health systems. Delivering quality standards down to the design-level, for both data and workflows, is key to driving process improvement and optimization inside the constantly changing technology of a healthcare facility.