Quote Of The Year

Timeless Quotes - Sadly The Late Paul Shetler - "Its not Your Health Record it's a Government Record Of Your Health Information"


H. L. Mencken - "For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong."

Friday, June 28, 2019

So Much For The Idea Electronic Medical Records Improve Care Co-Ordination. Not Really Suited For That Role!

This report appeared last week:

Inquest into the death of Melissa King

Australia June 20 2019
On 14 June 2019, the Coroner's Court of New South Wales released its findings into the death of Melissa King. The circumstances of her death highlight the risks associated with the use of electronic progress notes as a means of communicating concerns about the treatment decisions made in respect of patients.
Ms King was 33 years old at the time of her death at Blacktown Hospital. On Wednesday 10 August 2016, she had called the National Home Doctor Service on account of having vomiting and diarrhoea for two to three days. The service referred her to Mount Druitt Hospital from which she was transferred to Blacktown Hospital. She had a history of chronic alcohol use and malnutrition, weighing 40kg upon her admission to hospital.
At Blacktown Hospital, she was treated with fluid and electrolyte replacement and was admitted to the ICU. She was ultimately diagnosed with urinary tract sepsis, severe malnutrition with electrolyte metabolic derangements, notable low sodium and a number of other micronutrients, deranged liver function and ascites, pulmonary effusions and obstructive renal calculus diagnosed by CT. Further investigations into the cause of her symptoms were arranged. A CT scan showed bowel wall thickening which suggested inflammatory bowel disease.
In replenishing her depleted micronutrients, one consideration for her treating team was the risk of ‘re-feeding syndrome' whereby a malnourished person who starts receiving artificial refeeding is at risk of a potentially fatal shift in fluids and electrolytes. That risk was identified in the records. There was fluctuation in her response to refeeding and also in relation to her overall condition. She had periods of lucidity, deterioration, confusion and agitation. On 15 August she began complaining of ongoing abdominal discomfort. An endocrinology registrar noted that her abdomen was distended and bowel sounds were difficult to hear.
The intensive care specialist decided to transfer her to the ward. Ms King had been tachycardic for most of her admission and the endocrinology and gastroenterology teams felt that it was not safe for her to be transferred while this remained unexplained, recording their opposition to this decision in the progress notes. The specialist also altered Ms King’s calling criteria so that a review would only be triggered upon her heart rate exceeding 130 bpm. The endocrinology and gastroenterology teams were not informed of the ultimate transfer, nor of the alteration to the calling criteria.
It was intended that Ms King would have an endoscopy on 17 August. Upon admission to the ward, she began her preparation, which required her to consume a glycoprep solution. She was also reviewed by an anaesthetist trainee. The trainee identified a wheeze for which Ms King required a bronchodilator. Her oxygen saturation also dropped, and a nurse was advised to increase her oxygen supply, 3L/min via nasal prongs.
Later in the evening, Ms King told a nurse than she felt hot and cold. She was still short of breath. The nurse asked a doctor to review Ms King and that doctor asked the nurse write a note requesting the after-hours doctor to review the patient. No review followed.
Before midnight, Ms King called for a bedpan and continued drinking the grycoprep solution. At 11:58 she was found unresponsive. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation was commenced and a tracheostomy was inserted,. On 13 September at a family conference it was decided that the tracheostomy be removed and palliative care provided. Ms King passed away on 16 September.
An autopsy showed that Ms King’s cause of death was hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy with an antecedent cause of in-hospital cardiopulmonary arrest and resuscitation. Chronic alcoholism with liver disease and malnutrition with refeeding syndrome were also seen as significant conditions contributing to the death.
Much more of the summary is here:
There is a full Coroner’s document found here:
The core paragraph is this one:
“The coroner accepted one expert’s observation that 'the electronic record is a valuable repository of information but a poor and dangerous communication tool'. In was inappropriate that the notes citing opposition to transfer were not seen and that relevant teams were not notified of the decision to transfer the patient.”
If an internal hospital system with its currency and completeness – but without special modes and tweaks to optimise communication – failed, it is easy to see just how useless the #myHR would be in a similar role. (This internal one has now been improved greatly with extra functionality added and improved usage protocols.)
You have to make sure then intended audience of any communication actually gets the message and rhe #myHR is a million miles away from being that sort of tool. Don’t believe anything the ADHA says about how great the #myHR is for care-coordination – it simply is not designed for, or suited to, that function!
Postscript: It is amusing to note that the line 'the electronic record is a valuable repository of information but a poor and dangerous communication tool' came from Prof. Malcolm Fisher who, in another life, was the ICU Director and fellow ICU Specialist, with yours truly, at RNSH! Small world.


Anonymous said...

Did her My Health Record let her take control of her health?
Did it help her manage her chronic (or was it acute?) condition?

Bernard Robertson-Dunn said...

Can I suggest that to be "valuable" any record of healthcare or medical care should be curated?

In other words it needs to be managed properly, not just a collection of documents, test data, discharge/event summaries, medication lists, etc.

Otherwise it is just a dump of meaningless data that people are required to translate into useful data.

Dr Ian Colclough said...

It is not appropriate to cast aspersions on the My Health Record in any discussion of this case.

Bernard Robertson-Dunn said...

In this case, all the data was in the patient's medical record. Did it help? No.

Neill's days are numbered. But doctors could have saved his life – twice


The problems of healthcare have little to do with record keeping, although bad record keeping can have bad consequences.

Dr Ian Colclough said...

"In this case, all the data was in the patient's medical record. Did it help? No."

The medical record has provided evidence. The urologist, a trained surgeon, failed on a number of fronts - first and foremost 'communication'.

Anonymous said...

@ 6:42 PM Thank goodness for the medical record to support the patient's medico-legal litigation.

A tragic case of what appears to a failure of those involved to follow-up and communicate with each other and with the patient; in short they dropped the ball and the patient fell through the cracks, all symptoms of an overstressed health system. Such events will continue to happen, hopefully infrequently.

Andrew McIntyre said...

I honestly think that paper charts are often better for the current care of patients, with test results being electronic. While I could do it electronically, I keep of patient obs chart as paper in the day surgery setting as its easily visible, portable and all the information is basically on one page and it never crashes, even if the network is down. Test results and past summary documents are ideally electronic but its hard to beat paper for current care. As you write under the last entry its much harder to miss something. When the patient is discharged sending a electronic summary document of the episode of care to relevant people can then be done. Sending those documents to MyEHR alone opens up the opportunity that relevant people will not see the document, as they do not receive notification.

The role of a central repository, if any, is a way to obtain historical data and not a way of communicating current care! Fully electronic inpatient records are also sub-optimal for the same reason.

Dr Ian Colclough said...

Sub-optimal is the operative word leading to the question - What needs to be done to make them optimal?

I ask this, notwithstanding Andrew's perfectly valid comment "that it is hard to beat paper for current care". Regardless, the push for less paper (paper-free hospitals) and more techology seems to be leading to more fragmentation, less human to human communication, and a propensity for an increase in adverse events to the detriment of safe patient care.

Anonymous said...

@12:50 PM "What needs to be done to make them optimal?"

Great question. I don't think they (the government or the ADHA)know how to answer that. Does anyone reading here have some answers? Perhaps there's more than one right answer.

Anonymous said...

You might start with that fact that a product or service does not create value. The consumer or consumers of that product or service are the one that establish the value.

There is also the the Solow computer paradox to consider

Dr Ian Colclough said...

@ 2:38 PM - "the consumer or consumers of that product or service are the one(s) that establish the value". I agree.

But ADHA will tell us that it consulted widely, ever so widely. Having consulted it interpreted the information and feedback that it had gathered as 'value' and having identified the 'value' it then provided the consumer(s) with 'a' product or service.

Mmmmmm - How could they have got it so wrong?

Anonymous said...

How could they have got it so wrong?

You are probably being sarcastic, but:

a) they were only looking for "evidence" that confirmed their beliefs.
b) they were/are incompetent

What's changed?

Nothing - just look at the testbed projects.

Anonymous said...

All available evidence points to incompetence, combined with the fact they simply didn't know what they didn't understand, what the consumers were saying, and what the consumers needed.