Continuing Patient Care during Electronic Health Record DowntimeFunding This research was supported by a grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ): Evidence-Based Contingency Planning for Electronic Health Record Downtime (R21 HS024350–01A1).
22 February 2019
13 May 2019
10 July 2019 (online)
Introduction Electronic health record (EHR) downtime is any period during which the EHR system is fully or partially unavailable. These periods are operationally disruptive and pose risks to patients. EHR downtime has not sufficiently been studied in the literature, and most hospitals are not adequately prepared.
Objective The objective of this study was to assess the operational implications of downtime with a focus on the clinical laboratory, and to derive recommendations for improved downtime contingency planning.
Methods A hybrid qualitative–quantitative study based on historic performance data and semistructured interviews was performed at two mid-Atlantic hospitals. In the quantitative analysis, paper records from downtime events were analyzed and compared with normal operations. To enrich this quantitative analysis, interviews were conducted with 17 hospital employees, who had experienced several downtime events, including a hospital-wide EHR shutdown.
Results During downtime, laboratory testing results were delayed by an average of 62% compared with normal operation. However, the archival data were incomplete due to inconsistencies in the downtime paper records. The qualitative interview data confirmed that delays in laboratory result reporting are significant, and further uncovered that the delays are often due to improper procedural execution, and incomplete or incorrect documentation. Interviewees provided a variety of perspectives on the operational implications of downtime, and how to best address them. Based on these insights, recommendations for improved downtime contingency planning were derived, which provide a foundation to enhance Safety Assurance Factors for EHR Resilience guides.
Conclusion This study documents the extent to which downtime events are disruptive to hospital operations. It further highlights the challenge of quantitatively assessing the implication of downtimes events, due to a lack of otherwise EHR-recorded data. Organizations that seek to improve and evaluate their downtime contingency plans need to find more effective methods to collect data during these times.
Keywordselectronic health record - patient care - downtime - contingency planning - clinical laboratory
Each author contributed to the conception or design of the work, data analysis and interpretation, critical revision of the article, and final approval of the version to be published.
Protection of Human and Animal Subjects
This study was performed in compliance with the World Medical Association Declaration of Helsinki on Ethical Principles for Medical Research Involving Human Subjects and was reviewed by the Institutional Review Boards of Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Virginia Commonwealth University, and MedStar Health.
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