New MedStar Health Human Factors Center Research Reinforces Critical Importance of EHR-Related Reporting and Collaboration

The MedStar Health National Center for Human Factors in Healthcare just announced the publication of two new studies in a press release titled, “New Research Reinforces Importance of Reporting and Collaboration to Prevent Patient Harm in Electronic Health Record Systems” (EHRs). This work contributes to the growing body of evidence—released by the MedStar Health Human Factors Center and beyond—underscoring the critical importance of making improvements to and further evaluating EHR systems to protect patient safety and clinician well-being. The Center is part of the MedStar Institute for Innovation and works in partnership with MedStar Health Research Institute and others throughout MedStar Health.

The latest Center study was published in the Dec. 17 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and is titled “Identifying Potential Patient Safety Issues from the Federal Electronic Health Record Surveillance Program.” The research analyzed more than 350 reports of EHR issues perceived to violate the federal certification program, as defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services—finding that many of these reports pose potential safety issues. The study reinforces that there is a real possibility for EHR platforms to cause patient harm—making it increasingly important for EHR vendors, providers, policymakers, and patients to collaborate to improve this essential health information technology. 

Center authors include Raj Ratwani, PhD, Center director and associate professor at the Georgetown University School of Medicine, and Aaron (Zach) Hettinger, MD, Center medical director and director of cognitive informatics. The study’s first author, Thomas Pacheco, conducted this research as a fellow supported under the Frank S. Pellegrini, M.D. Medical Student Research Scholarship, a prestigious opportunity given to select Georgetown University Medical School students to perform research under the auspices of the MedStar Health Research Institute within the MedStar Health system.

Another Center study was published in JAMA Network Open on Dec. 13 and is titled “Evaluating Improvements and Shortcomings in Clinician Satisfaction With Electronic Health Record Usability.” It analyzed the System Usability Scale (SUS) data for 27 of 70 widely-used EHR vendor platforms and found that there was no statistical improvement in EHR satisfaction SUS scores between recently certified products, despite past research finding that poor EHR usability relates to both clinician burnout and patient harm. This MedStar Health study is particularly noteworthy when considered with other recent external research showing that SUS scores of implemented products are even lower. This points to a gap between usability satisfaction as measured during the time of product certification and the reality of satisfaction with implemented products.

Dr. Ratwani authored the JAMA Network Open study with first author Kylie M. Gomes, who conducted the research as a University of Virginia doctoral student. 

Both studies were supported with research grant funding from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

Read more in the related MedStar Health press release, which includes expert perspectives on this research and its calls to action.