California bill would require electronic medical records to track changes

The California state legislature is considering a bill that would require electronic medical records (EMRs) and electronic health ecords (EHRs) to track any changes made by healthcare professionals, reports California Watch.

Currently, there is no requirement that EMRs contain information on what edits had been made in the past, allowing healthcare providers to easily erase data. Under the terms of the proposed legislation, California would mandate that healthcare providers automatically record any alterations made using health informatics tools as well as the identity of the person making the changes.

“Changes to an EHR can go unnoticed and can be harder to trace than changes made to paper records,” the bill’s author, Senator Mark Leno of San Francisco, said during a legislative hearing held in May.

Advocates of the new bill, deemed SB 850, argue that it would prevent problems like those that befell the family of Diane Stewart. After Stewart died suddenly during a knee operation, investigators found that hospital personnel had altered important parts of her EMR, with Stewart’s family alleging that doctors and nurses did so to cover up malpractice that led to the woman’s death.

Many state healthcare organizations, including the California Medical Association (CMA) and the California Hospital Association (CHA), have come out against the proposed law.

“While the use of electronic records provides new challenges to documentation, the CHA believes the frequency of the problem addressed in this bill does not make the cost justified at this time when hospitals are focused on achieving sustainable health information exchange and in demonstrating federally defined meaningful use of clinical data,” the CHA said in a letter addressed to Leno.

According to the California Healthcare Foundation, approximately half of all physician practices in the state have installed health informatics tools such as EMRs and EHRs.

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