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Tech issues prompt feds to ease hard drive for digital records

When the first Windows operating system was issued there were bugs. Some would argue that there hasn’t been a subsequent Windows release without glitches. The same could be said for nearly any technological advancement. And considering they nearly all involve computers in some way, it should probably not be a surprise.

We brought some focus to this issue in a previous post when we asked why medical machines in hospitals don’t talk to each other. In that post we noted that nearly all hospitals use devices that could be coordinated electronically, but that few take advantage of the functionality. And a poll of nurses who work with the equipment found that half had reported that medical errors had resulted from the lack of coordination.

Quality provisions of President Obama’s health care law make adoption of electronic health records a priority for doctors and hospitals. Proponents of EHRs say they are supposed to not only make treatment easier for care providers, but also allow consumers to play a greater role in their own health care decisions.

The vision is that EHRs also improve the sharing of consistent information as patients go from one provider to another. But it turns out the drive to achieve solid is proving harder than expected. Reports of improvements in care that federal regulators had expected haven’t materialized and now officials are proposing giving doctors, hospitals and technology suppliers more time to get things working.

The reasons for the difficulties are said to be many. One doctor closely involved in the process says one problem is that the EHR systems available are all so new that they are buggy. Many are prone to crash. They are also subject to garbage in, garbage out issues. If data is entered incorrectly, it could cause medical errors for which doctors and hospitals would be liable.

Meanwhile, as regulators look to slow the speed of adoption, several U.S. senators have started a bipartisan group to try to determine if a legislative remedy is needed.