Driving while texting is so dangerous that it’s outlawed. But doctors and nurses are expected to care for patients while keeping their eyes glued to a computer screen, following prompts and clicking boxes. Some electronic health-record systems require 62 clicks just to order Tylenol, and a full ER shift involves 4,000 clicks. No wonder mistakes are rampant.
Last week, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb pointed to “risk for patients” from badly designed electronic health-records systems. Babies killed by overdoses when medication orders were entered incorrectly, patients whose cancers weren’t diagnosed because their scans were routed to the wrong file, even an emergency room patient who died while caregivers struggled to access his information.
Going digital was a good idea but Washington hubris turned it into a costly mess. Then-president-elect Barack Obama announced in 2009 that he’d make sure “all of America’s medical records are computerized” within five years.
Government force was employed to make the change happen with lightning speed. The Obama administration’s 2009 stimulus bill slapped hefty penalties on providers that didn’t comply by 2016.
“It’s not that we’re a bunch of Luddites who don’t know how to use technology,” one emergency room physician sued for making a computer error told Kaiser Health News. Doctors were forced to install systems fast, without a clue about which ones actually worked. “There really wasn’t the time to let the cream rise to the top; everyone had to jump in and pick something.”