Human errors play big role in HIT mistakes


A significant proportion of unintended consequences relating to the use of health information technology (HIT) are the result of human error, according to a new investigation by ECRI Institute PSO.

ECRI Institute PSO conducted a PSO Deep Dive to examine 171 HIT-related adverse events, unsafe conditions, and near misses that 36 facilities had reported into over a nine week period. It found that some of the most common events include or pertain to data entry in the wrong record and incorrect data entry.

“Human factors play an important role in the unintended consequences,” said Dr Karen Zimmer, medical director for ECRI Institute PSO. “If we are going to truly mitigate unintended consequences we need to understand how a user interacts with technology as well as the technology itself.”

She said that HIT brings great benefits in terms of the ease of accessing a greater quantity of information, which can enhance the patient’s visit and assist in decision making on a patient’s treatment plan.

“While health IT has the potential to improve the quality of care, there have been some unintended consequences. We have been implementing technology at a rapid pace without fully appreciating the environment in which we are incorporating these systems,” she said.

“An important step is to understand the existing workflow process before implementing a new IT system. If you have a flawed workflow process issue before technology implementation, and you don’t address that issue, you will simply have a computerized flawed workflow process.”

She added that only by addressing both technical and human factors does an organization have the best chance of cutting back on HIT-related safety events.

“What I find most enlightening about this PSO Deep Dive is it’s one more data point to confirm the importance of addressing both human factors and technology issues,” she said. “Vendors and healthcare facilities need to work together to mitigate unintended consequences.”

HIT, ECRI Institute PSO, PSO Deep Dive, healthcare facilities, healthcare IT, errors