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Data quality checks can reduce errors in healthcare reform

Rachel Wheeler Archive

Patient safety issues represent a huge concern for doctors as healthcare reform continues. Practitioners in the United States are under pressure to transfer data from their paper charts into electronic health records. However, they must keep data quality at its peak while moving ahead with implementation plans to stay on top of federal deadlines.

Push to integrate healthcare data
When patient information is stored centrally or accessible via a cloud-based server, doctors can tap into it no matter where they are. This can prove especially beneficial during emergency situations and natural disasters, reports Congressman Brian Higgins of Western New York, who urged the House of Representatives to press doctors even further down the path of health IT after seeing how facilities fared in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

"While many hospitals and medical centers were devastated by the storm, hospitals that employed electronic medical records were able to ensure that vital health information was maintained and not lost. Not only that, but electronic medical records enabled continuity of care as patients were transferred between hospitals," Higgins explained.

Easy-to-access records also benefit patients and providers when there aren't extenuating circumstances. If both doctors and specialists can see an individual's chart, they can make the best care decisions sooner. Rather than waiting to get in contact with another provider for answers or access to files, they can view lab results and see success rates with previous treatments plans.

U.S. isn't alone
The U.S. isn't the only country looking to capitalize on these advantages. The National Health Ministry in Argentina is similarly working to integrate residents' healthcare records through the Sistema Integrado de Informacion Sanitaria Argentino (Argentinian Integrated Healthcare Information System, SISA). This will combine individuals' records from its provinces, each of which has an independent government and healthcare standard, reports Healthcare IT News.

Multiple sources can lead to data quality issues
Putting data from various records into a single source can prove troublesome, especially if doctors and healthcare systems used different coding methods, abbreviations and terminology, the source adds.

These may seem like small discrepancies, but they can led to significant issues with data quality. A recently released Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority study found that dual workflows can be similarly problematic, as doctors using both paper charts and EHRs might miss information that's been stored differently in each medium.

Companies that are updating their systems can cleanse their data to ensure the information is correct in all of its forms as a safeguard against patient safety issues.