A study conducted by a medical team at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Houston (and reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine) reveals problems in electronic medical record-keeping.
Using the VA’s electronic record-keeping system for the study, the director of the study, Dr. Hardeep Singh, tracked electronic alerts and follow-up care from November 2007 to June 2008. Specifically, the study focused on what took place after a VA doctor received an electronic alert that an imaging exam (e.g. CT scan, MRI, mammogram, sonogram, radiogram, etc.) was abnormal.
Approximately 123,638 imaging studies were completed during the study’s timeframe and 1,196 alerts were made. Of those alerts that appeared on VA doctor’s computers, 18.1% were unopened (i.e. not read) after two weeks. A follow-up within four weeks was of the alert was not completed in 7.7% of the alerts.
In his report summarizing his findings, Dr. Singh recommends a better tracking system that would encourage follow-up care as well as assignment of one doctor in a VA patient’s medical team who will coordinate such care after an alert is received.
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