Electronic Records Keep Patients Safe

Automating patient medical records has been touted as a way to ensure health care providers have all the information they need to make care decisions.

That concept was tested recently at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, when the hospital used its electronic medical record (EMR) system to quickly and easily notify patients after the Food and Drug Administration issued a Public Health Advisory about the withdrawal of the arthritis drug rofecoxib (Vioxx) from the market in September of last year.

Once the withdrawal was announced, the hospital used the technology to identify all patients in the system who currently had a prescription for the drug. Within 24 hours, all 11,699 patients were sent a notification and instructed to contact their doctors for additional guidance about taking and/or stopping the medication.

Doctors also got an e-mail message informing them that the hospital was contacting their patients about the withdrawal of the drug, and the hospital set up several other electronic methods to ensure physicians knew about the withdrawal.

While the study did not directly measure the impact of these measures on patients or doctors, the authors believe the results show information technology can play a significant role in informing patients whenever a fast-developing medical issue arises that could impact their health.

They write, “With the health care environment becoming more complex and specialized, the utility of EMR technology to facilitate communication about important health care issues is critical.”

SOURCE: Annals of Internal Medicine, 2005;142:182-186

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