Who let Ebola Out? The Computer did it!

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Ebola made a sensational entry into the cognitive radar of Americans with an infected patient being allowed to go home even after having been to a hospital. If the hospital is to believed, it is the EHR’s fault. The Politico report Did a computer raise Ebola spread risk? is one of several that finger the EHR. Was it really the EHR’s fault, or is it just a convenient scapegoat?

The good questions to ask at this stage are:

  1. Was it really the EHR’s fault?
  2. Could the result have been different with a different EHR?
  3. Could the EHR have been configured differently to prevent this blunder?
  4. Should the EHRs be updated each time an epidemic threat is on the horizon?
  5. Could the result have been different with paper based charting?
  6. Should travel history be part of the routine history questions for all patients, and then be added to the “always visible” sections (e.g., Problem List) of the chart, if they have traveled from a region with certain infectious diseases?
The truth is that the EHRs, as they exist today, reduce the clinician’s vision to a telescopic one.
Clinicians could be scrutinizing a particular part of the data with great intensity, while ignoring a much bigger elephant sitting right next to them. There is an urgent need to create an alternative way for the clinicians to size up entire data or at least automatically flag any piece of it that is suspicious or an outlier.
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