How Frequently Do Healthcare Data Errors Occur?


June 15th, 2020

A new study cites one-fifth of patients, who review their ambulatory care notes, find serious healthcare data errors. Accuracy matters in healthcare data.

New Study on Ambulatory Care Notes Sheds Light on the Problem

healthcare data errors

Healthcare data errors aren’t the exception. The prevalence of these mistakes is a known issue. Even with the right health information system (HIS), accuracy is not a given. But at what frequency are they happening, why are they transpiring, and what’s the solution?

The Frequency of Healthcare Data Errors

A new study from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) provides new insights on occurrences. The project revealed that one-fifth of patients with access to ambulatory care notes found errors. 

The most common types of mistakes weren’t insignificant. They included diagnoses, medications, medical history, physical exams, test results, and wrong patient information. 

Medical errors have serious consequences. A John Hopkins study found that more than 250,000 deaths in the U.S. are the result of medical errors. This statistic sets it as the cause of 10% of all deaths. 

While it’s unlikely we can eliminate all these errors. Every healthcare organization has a commitment to reduce them. The “how” has to be a mix of efforts. One of which is minimizing the risk of errors in a HIS. 

Patient Accessibility of Records Led to Errors Found

In the new study, over 30,000 patients responded. The data set included only those with access to the notes. Without this access, the errors would still be unknown. Availability at this level is not consistent. The new interoperability rule is pushing for this, focusing on the patient experience. 

There is still considerable discussion going on about data sharing with patients. Many stakeholders support it but worry about privacy. 

But should it be the patient’s responsibility to find errors? What can providers do to improve accuracy?

Diagnoses Errors Top the List

Of the mistakes detected, 21% of patients identified them as not a typo but a critical error. Diagnoses errors were the most common. The variations included misdiagnoses, missing diagnoses, and conditions the patient did not have. 

Medication Dosage, Allergies, and Vaccinations Error-Prone, Incomplete Data Conversions to Blame

medical errors

Medication data errors are dangerous. They can be fatal. The study found many errors attributable to incomplete or inaccurate EHR data conversions. Researchers noted that these errors were due to EHR changes. Certain fields did not covert. Thus, creating errors on the patient profile around dosage, allergies, and vaccinations. 

healthcare data conversion must always take into consideration field mapping. A problem with many data conversions is that there is no validation. Providers believe they are getting all their data. It’s the process that deserves evaluation. 

Should Patients Be Responsible for Finding Healthcare Data Errors?

HIPAA granted patient access to records but didn’t solve the “how.” That how has now been defined by the new interoperability rule. The pursuit of accuracy could be another avenue for patient engagement. 

However, education of patients and outreach will be necessary. Providers may encourage feedback but also need to provide context for patients. Receiving feedback would also need a workflow. Someone must respond and make corrections. 

Complete and Accurate Data Solutions

Getting patients involved to review notes is only one facet of this complex problem. There are meaningful steps you can take to boost completeness and accuracy.

Choose a data conversion partner that is healthcare-centric and understands field mapping and other important factors.

Employ aggregation methods that can deal with structured and unstructured data.

Use data sharing tactics that push key data from patient notes to other systems (i.e., decision support, 340B programs, chronic condition management, etc.).

These solutions don’t have to be the sole responsibility of your team. Partner with a data liaison like us. We’ve worked on nearly 30,000 data management projects for healthcare. Let us help you, too.

Learn more about our data management solutions.  

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