Macroergonomics to Understand Factors Impacting Patient Care During Electronic Health Record Downtime


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Virginia Tech


Through significant federal investment and incentives, Electronic Health Records have become ubiquitous in modern hospitals. Over the past decade, these computer support systems have provided healthcare operations with new safety nets, and efficiency increases, but also introduce new problems when they suddenly go offline. These downtime events are chaotic and dangerous for patients. With the safety systems clinicians have become accustomed to offline, patients are at risk from errors and delays.

This work applies the Macroergonomic methodology to facilitate an exploratory study into the issues related to patient care during downtime events. This work uses data from existing sources within the hospital, such as the electronic health record itself. Data collection mechanisms included interviews, downtime paper reviews, and workplace observations. The triangulation of data collection mechanisms facilitated a thorough exploration of the issues of downtime. The Macroergonomic Analysis and Design (MEAD) methodology was used to guide the analysis of the data, and identify variances and shifts in responsibility due to downtime. The analysis of the data supports and informs developing potential intervention strategies to enable hospitals to better cope with downtime events.

Within MEAD, the assembled data is used to inform the creation of a simulation model which was used to test the efficacy of the intervention strategies. The results of the simulation testing are used to determine the specific parameters of the intervention suggestions as they relate to the target hospitals.

The primary contributions of this work are an exploratory study of electronic health record downtime and impacts to patient safety, and an adaptation of the Macroergonomic Analysis and Design methodology, employing multiple data collection methods and a high-fidelity simulation model. The methodology is intended to guide future research into the downtime issue, and the direct findings can inform the creation of better downtime contingency strategies for the target hospitals, and possibly to offer some generalizability for all hospitals.



Healthcare Safety, Macroergonomics, Macroergonomic Analysis and Design, Electronic Health Record, Downtime, Emergency Medicine, Clinical Laboratory