Because health IT is such a dynamic field, these kinds of changeover periods will continue to be frequent. Providers need to realize that transition periods greatly raise the risk that data needed for safe patient care may be missing or incorrect, experts say. “When systems are replaced or upgraded, each section of the new or upgraded system has to be thoroughly tested to make sure that the data is correct, and that the information is received in the right location and is accessible by clinicians,” says Joyce Sensmeier, vice president for informatics at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) North America. “It’s like when you bring in your car to have one thing fixed and they break another.”
The process of ensuring new installations or upgrades go smoothly can be highly complex. “These test plans can be hundreds of pages long,” she says.
Other issues that must be addressed include ensuring that each data field displays properly, that all data selection options are coded properly and that they display and print accurately. Still others include guaranteeing that all patient data aligns with the correct patient, and that all drop down lists appear in the correct location within the system.
Providers need to stay well informed of the transition’s or installation’s progress, of delays and of any specific functionalities being affected by the changes.
Be careful about copying and pasting entries: “If you copy and paste without looking at the data to ensure that it’s current and accurate, that can cause errors,” says Sensmeier.
Derrow finds that copying and pasting as well as an overreliance on drop-down menus can lead to the creation of records that lack useful information.
“You get this stuff back and you search in vain for any meaningful statement that somehow represents what the other physician actually thought about this particular patient,” he says.