Does Using a Newer EHR System Actually Reduce the Number of Reported Errors in the Practice Setting?

When I worked with Sage Healthcare, one of the tenants of our marketing campaign was ensuring the market and those we served were well aware of the length of time our product had been used in ambulatory practice and its worth to countless physicians during that time.

Thirty years is a long time, especially for the ever changing world of software and technology; perhaps too long.

But I digress. Certainly, a product with three decades of service deserves to be recognized as one of the market’s leaders. After all, it is in the Smithsonian as the first practice management system in use commercially.

However, touting a technology that’s supposed to be innovative 30 years after it was first launched always seemed contradictory to me. How can something so “innovative” not also be considered antiquated in a situation such as this? Obviously, this is more of a hypothetical question, but it was one I always asked myself as I began the pitching process.

Why all of the pontificating? The straightforward and simple response is because of the release of a new study that seems to suggest the newer EHRs with more advanced features can curb prescribing errors. Now, clearly, using the example above feature a practice management system, but I think I’m making my point.

Is newer, “more innovative” technology better for use in the practice setting?

According to the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, newer electronic health record systems with advanced clinical decision support functions may help reduce prescribing errors over time, .

Some of the study details include: “Researchers previously evaluated prescribing errors at an ambulatory clinic one year after the clinic switched from an older EHR system to a newer one with advanced clinical decision support functions.

For the latest study, the researchers analyzed 1,905 prescriptions ordered at the ambulatory clinic in 2010, two years after the transition to the newer EHR system.”

According to the study, after two years of using the newer EHR system, the prescription error rate was lower than the prescription error rate after one year of using the new system. The newer EHR system issued fewer drug-related alerts, which researchers noted was “particularly important” in increasing physicians’ attention to alerts.

The researchers also noted that although advanced clinical decision support functions could help reduce prescribing errors, serious errors might require more targeted interventions.

Now, I’ve worked in the business long enough to understand that there are several counter arguments that can be made here – and if I were still with an organization touting a 30-year-old product as innovative, there are several points I’d offer up — some of which include product updates, system upgrades, system enhancements, that older technology has its kinks worked out, it that is has been user tested and so on and so forth.

However, this study does bring up an interesting points that I’m sure every EHR vendor is going to wrestle with or at least shrug their shoulder at, but in some ways, this is kind of like asking if a 2013 Toyota Camry is better than the 2010 Camry.

All kidding aside, does the age of a system matter? Aren’t vendors doing enough to ensure these types of issues don’t crop up? Isn’t most of the software on the market (the respectable software, that is) even if it’s a little long in the tooth just as good or even better, in some cases, as the new stuff or am I simply missing the point?

Let me know your thoughts.

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