5 improvements to EHR design to protect patient data

The Electronic Health Record Association (EHRA) has released its "Electronic Health Record Design Patterns for Patient Safety" report on the relationship between usability and patient safety in regards to electronic health records (EHRs). The report outlines five areas for improvement in securing patient data when using EHRs.

The report includes input from software engineers, human factors experts and clinicians to examine current EHR usability and security. The improvements in EHR design include:

  1. Medications: Medication information should be properly displayed in accordance with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved list of “Generic Drug Names with Tall Man Letters" and the Institute for Safe Medication Practices’ list of "Additional Drug Names with Tall Man Letters"; space out information on drug labels; support the use of Universal Medication Schedule displays.
  2. Alert Fatigue: Differentiate alerts by low, medium and high severity; severity level should determine intrusiveness; use a standard structure for all alerts.
  3. Lab Results: Display numeric and text results clearly; distinguish between new and previous results; use consistent formatting for abnormal results; provide graphical displays of results over time.
  4. Numeric Display: Use a comma to separate digits in sets of three; zeros should be displayed before the decimal in fractional numbers; do not use trailing zero in precision measurements; right-justify and decimal-align numbers when they're displayed in a column.
  5. Displaying Text: Reduce truncated data; use abbreviations sparingly; clearly define the difference in "no value recorded" and "actually no value"; consistently place labels adjacent to values.