Effects of Electronic Medical Record Downtime on Patient Safety, Downtime Mitigation, and Downtime Plans

Effects of Electronic Medical Record Downtime on Patient Safety, Downtime Mitigation, and Downtime Plans

Joseph M. Walsh (University of Victoria, Victoria, Canada), Elizabeth M. Borycki (University of Victoria, Victoria, Canada) and Andre W. Kushniruk (University of Victoria, Victoria, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/IJEACH.2020010110

Abstract

The purpose of this article is to examine the extent and nature of the published electronic medical record (EMR) downtime, downtime mitigation and downtime planning research in healthcare. The article will also summarize some of the major themes and recommendations found in published research focused on downtime and healthcare. In this study, data was extracted from the research publications. Three major themes emerged: patient safety, contingency planning, and mitigation. These overarching themes were further expanded into 13 subthemes. Healthcare organizations, now with mature EMR deployments, are well aware of the importance of contingency plans for both planned and unintended downtime situations. The literature is encouraging. Organizations are updating and evolving their contingency plans. Research suggests clinical staff (e.g. physicians, nurses) benefit from more training. Clinical staff also benefited from first-hand knowledge and experience in downtime scenarios, either in live situations or in the form of downtime drills.
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Background

Continuity of patient care has become increasingly dependent on a continually available EMR system. In recent years, technology has been injected into virtually every aspect of patient care. Each of these separate systems introduce the potential of another electronic point of failure that can affect the availability in whole or in part of patient care systems. “Unexpected information technology (IT) downtime occurs more and more often with widespread adoption of electronic systems in healthcare” (Campos et al., 2015). As patient care becomes more dependent on these diverse electronic systems, clinical staff (e.g. physicians and nurses) are also becoming more sensitive to the availability of systems in patient care areas as systems support patient care. Technology can make patient care safer; however, patient safety threats arising from health information system use (e.g. system outages), highlight the need to consider the unintended consequences of integrating healthcare delivery and technology (Kashiwagi et al., 2016).

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