As personal health records (PHRs) and patient portals become more widely available, it is not hard to anticipate that more data will be integrated or at least available for integration with a physician’s EMR. In this context, if medical data is collected by knowledgeable individuals (e.g. with Diabetes Mellitus) and shared via a patient portal or email with a care provider, of course it should be trusted... right? Yes in certain cases, but not always. It is highly dependent on how the data within the EMR is going to be used and who else may be using the record.
Here are some important points to consider:
- What kind of data will be collected by patients and how will that data be shared with a provider or entered into the EMR?
- If devices are used to collect the data, e.g. glucometers or weight scales, how frequently are the devices calibrated and checked for accuracy?
- Is the information being used to monitor trends as supportive information, or is it critical data that could impact life-and-death decisions?
- Is there an element of manual error that can be introduced when data is collected, e.g. through transcription from a device to a spreadsheet (which is then emailed to the provider), or is the data reported directly from the device to the EMR?
- When data is shared by a patient with their care provider, how frequently is data reviewed before being accepted into the EMR?
- Can the data be rejected if it is felt to be inaccurate (e.g. calibration issues) and what is the follow-up process, e.g. office visit, telephone call, home visit, etc.?
- How is the data segmented in the EHR (i.e. kept separate from other results and information)?
- What is the single source of truth for critical healthcare information? An example of this is a new medication allergy. Consider a patient who has no history of allergies to any medications. That individual is prescribed a number of medications due to an acute respiratory infection, treated at the local hospital. One of the medications prescribed is an antibiotic called Moxifloxacin. The individual develops a skin rash and decides to discontinue all medications. He reports to his primary care physician (through the patient portal) that he has developed an allergy to Moxifloxacin. Should that information be integrated into the EMR? Can it be trusted as a source of truth?
Electronic Medical Records (although quite limited in terms of the sharing of information in a doctor’s office) are really information exchange systems. When operating effectively, they are designed to share information between multiple sources, effortlessly and securely. As a result, it is highly likely that an individual’s personal health information will exist in multiple locations and in multiple health information systems. This may also cause conflicts. Generally, the primary care physician’s EMR is considered a trusted, if not the most trusted, source of information. As a result, information stored in the physician’s EMR needs to be as accurate as possible because of the potential for that information to be propagated electronically to other systems through shared records, referrals, or consultation reports where information is automatically abstracted from the EMR.
While this is a hypothetical example, it is true that with any computer system, the quality of information that you get out is directly proportional to the quality of information that goes in.
The question is not whether patient generated data in an EMR can be trusted, but rather what policies and procedures need to be put into place to ensure that data is collected, transmitted, shared, and accessed in accordance with best practices. Integrating clinical data from any source requires adjustments to workflow and care delivery processes. These need to be carefully thought through before proceeding.
Do you use an EMR and integrate patient generated data? What are the pros and cons? Share your experiences and thoughts by clicking on the “Comments” link below.