Medical informatics systems encourage ‘automatic behavior,’ says AMA

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Although the benefits of implementing a medical informatics system are undeniable for many healthcare providers, a new study published by the American Medical Association (AMA) suggests that such systems can also encourage carelessness and error, reports Information Week.

The report indicates that although a wide variety of problems persist in ambulatory care environments, little is known about which factors cause the most harm. Researchers speculate that ‘automatic behavior’ encouraged by the use of medical informatics systems, such as copying and pasting patient health information, may be partly responsible for lapses in patient safety.

The news source reports that David Classen and Ashish Jha of the AMA recommended in an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine that adverse effects of medical informatics systems should be incorporated into the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ meaningful use federal financial incentive program. They also advised that clinical informatics solutions seeking certification under the initiative should provide functionality for the reporting of such errors.

“The use of [medical informatics systems] has the potential to improve patient safety and early research shows some promise, but these systems have also been linked to errors and harm,” reads the report. “It is not yet clear how many providers will adopt these systems, nor the extent to which [healthcare IT] will improve patient safety in ambulatory care versus generating new types of errors.”

The report claims that insufficient data on the impact of clinical informatics technology on the quality of patient care in ambulatory environments is partly responsible for the lack of data. Since many ambulatory healthcare providers have only adopted medical informatics systems in recent years, extrapolating reliable data during the past 10 years has been difficult.

According to American Medical News, greater care should be invested into the research and monitoring of patient safety reporting following ambulatory hospital admissions. Kevin B. O’Reilly, a medical ethics expert, wrote that greater emphasis should be placed on the collection and analysis of patient safety data in outpatient settings.