The Technology That Threatens Patient Lives

May 6, 2015

 
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The EHR was untested and untried – and now we know, dangerous. Last week a litigation expert said Congress may need to create an Injury Compensation Fund for Electronic Health Records (EHRs), similar to the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Fund. (Politico Pro, April 28, 2015).
 
In 2010, the FDA testified that at least 6 deaths and more than 40 injuries have been reported due to the EHR. In 2011, the Boston Globe found 216 deaths between January 2005 and 2010 linked to EHR alarm malfunction or alarm fatigue. Adding insult to injury, a new survey finds: “fewer physicians believe that EMR…has improved health outcomes” (46 percent in 2015 vs. 58 percent in 2012).
 
Who’s to blame for putting patients at risk? The initial blame lies with the Clinton Health Security Act’s “administrative simplification” language, which was enacted as part of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996. The corresponding 2003 HIPAA “privacy” Rule created national provider ID numbers and permitted patient records to be digitized, placed online, used and shared broadly without patient consent.
 
President George W. Bush then issued a 2004 executive order creating the Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology (ONC). He said, “Within 10 years, every American must have a personal electronic medical record.” President Obama agreed, and in 2009 mandated EHRs (providers can opt out if willing to accept financial penalties), provided $30 billion for clinics and hospitals to install EHRs and codified ONC, making it a permanent federal agency to establish a national EHR system.
 
Why did they do it?  In a word….Medicare.
 
Medicare’s $43 trillion unfunded liability is a looming political nightmare. No one in Congress wants to be around when reality arrives. A nationwide system of Internet-accessible EHRs is how bureaucrats and their health plan collaborators plan to gain virtual access to clinics and hospitals to observe, track, analyze and control medical decisions through policies such as:
 
  • “Quality” scoring with bonuses and penalties
  • Value-based purchasing: paying doctors for “value,” not actual services
  • Behavioral modification strategies for patients and doctors
  • Medication adherence tracking
  • Computerized treatment protocols for doctors to follow
  • Payments for keeping people healthy, not just caring for them when sick
 
The result is a health care system turned upside down. Patients have died. Doctors are data clerks. Personal touch is replaced with impersonal inquisitions. Checklists interfere with eye contact. Patients are asked intrusive questions unrelated to their visit. Doctors find it hard to think outside the box as they type in it. Listening scribes intrude as a third person in the room. Patient data can’t be easily found. Data disappears entirely. Medical ID theft adds incorrect patient data to the medical record. Entire hospital EHR systems crash, sometimes for days or weeks, leaving doctors and nurses in the dark. It’s a mess.
 
The danger from EHRs is no longer a secret. “As health IT adoption becomes more widespread, the potential for health IT-related patient harm may increase,” reports The Joint Commission, which accredited hospitals. Sixteen-year-old Pablo Garcia knows all too well. The EHR-generated error led to a huge overdose. He had a grand mal seizure and quit breathing. Thankfully, he lived.
 
Surveys show trust is part of the problem. Doctors and nurses have a bias toward trusting the computer rather than their own judgment. Dr. Scot Silverstein, a medical informatics professor and blogger in the middle of a lawsuit over the EHR-related death of his mother, provides six official documents showing the safety threat.
 
EHRs are also unproven. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services admits, “We do not have any information that supports or refutes claims that a broader adoption of EHRs can save lives.”
 
Finding a physician who focuses on your face and listens to your words without tapping it into a computer may be the best “medical decision” you’ll ever make. Send us the names and locations of those doctors. We’ll create a list.
 
Protecting American patients from Big Government,
 
Twila Brase, RN, PHN
President and Co-founder
 
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