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Consumers Split on Role of EHR Use in Improving Patient Safety

A recent survey of consumers in western New Yorker showed a near-even split about the impact of EHR use on patient safety.


Source: Thinkstock

By Kate Monica

- Fifty-one percent of surveyed western New Yorkers believe EHR use improves patient safety, according to a recent survey by HEALTHeLINK.

In September of 2017, the regional health information exchange (HIE) gathered responses from about 1,000 healthcare consumers about EHR use and health data exchange in the eight-county comprising western New York. Researchers gauged consumer awareness about the presence of EHR technology and health data exchange in healthcare, as well as general opinions about the effectiveness of data sharing in improving patient care delivery.

While a little over half of surveyed western New Yorkers reported that EHR use has a positive impact on patient safety, 18 percent stated EHR use in hospitals makes them feel less safe. Twenty-four percent of consumers said EHR use had no perceivable impact on patient safety.

Despite being divided over the effects of EHR use on patient safety, the vast majority of respondents agreed electronic health data access is beneficial to healthcare delivery. Fifty-eight percent of surveyed consumers reported they agree that health data access is a boon to healthcare quality, while 24 percent strongly agreed electronic health data access improves patient care.

Researchers also surveyed western New York residents specifically about their familiarity with HEALTHeLINK. Fifty-six percent of respondents stated they had heard the name “HEALTHeLINK” while 41 percent stated they had not. Respondents aware of the regional HIE were more likely to see benefits of EHR use for patient safety.

Overall, 86 percent stated healthcare in western New York is generally safe. Additionally, 87 percent reported that the area provides a high-level of quality patient care. Notably, there was an increase in HIE awareness of 9 percent among residents that felt healthcare in western New York was safe.

HEALTHeLINK leadership found these survey responses promising.

“We are very encouraged by these results as they demonstrate that HEALTHeLINK is working,” said HEALTHeLINK Executive Director Daniel Porreca. “At the same time, it is incumbent upon us to continue our efforts and to deliver value to the region’s health care system. We must also educate the community, including providers and medical staff, about HEALTHeLINK’s value to promote even greater use.”

Ultimately, 81 percent of surveyed consumers said they would be willing to encourage their physician to use HEALTHeLINK to enable improved health data exchange and access to patient EHRs.

Porreca also penned a recent op-ed to drum up further support for HEALTHeLINK and HIE use.

Porreca and HEALTHeLINK Board of Directors member Anthony J. Billittier IV, MD co-authored an article pointing to the cybersecurity incident at Erie County Medical Center (ECMC) earlier this year as another example of HEALTHeLINK’s usefulness.

In April, ECMC and its long-term care facility at Terrace View suffered an EHR outage as a result of a system virus. The New York medical center shut down its entire computer network and temporarily reverted back to using only paper-based health records.

ECMC struggled for weeks to get back online and safely restore its network. However, because ECMC was already part of HEALTHeLINK, all patient information was securely stored in the HIE and no data was permanently lost during the incident.

“While this cyberattack prevented ECMC staff from accessing its own electronic patient records directly, ECMC’s patient information was still readily available by connecting to HEALTHeLINK,” stated Porreca and Billittier.

HEALTHeLINK staff worked with ECMC to enable access to all data stored within the HIE. Within a few days, providers were again able to use patient EHR data to support care delivery.

“While an outage is a worst-case scenario, we hear every day how HEALTHeLINK is successfully being utilized,” wrote the duo. “Participating physician practices and hospitals safely and securely obtain and make patient health information available, thus providing as big a clinical picture as possible.”



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