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EHRs Not Designed with Real People in Mind, Expert Opines


Dr. Robert Wachter wrote the book on the failings of health IT and the effect these systems have on patient safety. He joined us for the Pearls podcast.

Welcome to the latest edition of the Physicians Practice Pearls Podcast. In this podcast, we'll bring you some of the most interesting and influential guests in healthcare. If you have any ideas for podcast guests or topics, email us at editor@physicianspractice.com.

Don't be mistaken - Dr. Robert Wachter, MD doesn't want to go back to the world of paper-based health records.

Indeed, Wachter, the Chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of California at San Francisco School of Medicine and Bestselling Author of the Book, "Digital Doctor," says that health IT has done more good than harm as it relates to patient safety.

"When you look at some of the problems with [EHRs], it's easy to get romantic about the old days [and think], 'Wouldn't it be wonderful if we went back to paper?' No it wouldn’t. There were hundreds and hundreds of errors related to the doctor's handwriting, or forgetting the patient was allergic to medicine, or information that came out of an X-Ray that wasn't transmitted to the primary-care physician," he says.

But Wachter is adamant that there is a lot of room for improvement with current EHR systems. In this episode of the Physicians Practice Pearls Podcast, Wachter talks to us about the improvements he'd like to see to make EHR systems safer and user friendly. He says clunky user EHR system interfaces and incessant patient safety alerts that create false positives are part of the problem. He also adds that EHRs are "not designed with real people in mind….That's the fundamental problem."

Later in the podcast, Wachter talks about the impact EHRs have had on malpractice lawsuits. In essence, he says it's too early to see any kind of connection, but predicts that will change soon. One reason why is because EHRs have created voluminous records, making it much harder to find vital information.

Click above to play the entire podcast.

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