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Factor in downtime to ensure safer health IT

LETTER — Posted May 13, 2013

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Regarding “Ways EHRs can lead to unintended safety problems” (Article, Feb. 25): Good article. IT is both a blessing and a curse, but I think there should be mentioned in the article’s sidebar ‑— “11 ways to make health IT safer” — a 12th way:

Develop, implement and practice an “IT downtime” procedure. One must plan for the predictable necessary maintenance times and unpredictable downtime of any IT system. An example of IT downtime, noted in the article, happened in the operating room. This obviously contributed to difficulty in patient treatment and potential for morbidity and mortality.

We often become totally dependent on IT systems when they are implemented, and do not pay attention to the ongoing need of a paper (non-IT) backup protocol. It is a fact of life — computers will crash sometimes.

Be prepared and practiced. This of course applies to the site and to integrated IT systems. Further, one must think broadly beyond the day-to-day functioning of an integrated IT system and also plan downtime protocols for disaster IT preparedness.

Dr. David Turineck, St. Sauveur, Québec, Canada

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