Neonatal Nurses Experience Unintended Consequences and Risks to Patient Safety With Electronic Health Records

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Abstract

In this article, we examine the unintended consequences of nurses' use of electronic health records. We define these as unforeseen events, change in workflow, or an unanticipated result of implementation and use of electronic health records. Unintended consequences experienced by nurses while using electronic health records have been well researched. However, few studies have focused on neonatal nurses, and it is unclear to what extent unintended consequences threaten patient safety. A new instrument called the Carrington-Gephart Unintended Consequences of Electronic Health Record Questionnaire has been validated, and secondary analysis using the tool explored the phenomena among neonatal nurses (N = 40). The purposes of this study were to describe unintended consequences of use of electronic health records for neonatal nurses and to explore relationships between the phenomena and characteristics of the nurse and the electronic health record. The most frequent unintended consequences of electronic health record use were due to interruptions, followed by a heavier workload due to the electronic health record, changes to the workflow, and altered communication patterns. Neonatal nurses used workarounds most often with motivation to better assist patients. Teamwork was moderately related to higher unintended consequences including patient safety risks (r = 0.427, P = .007), system design (r = 0.419, P = .009), and technology barriers (r = 0.431, P = .007). Communication about patients was reduced when patient safety risks were high (r = −0.437, P = .003). By determining the frequency with which neonatal nurses experience unintended consequences of electronic health record use, future research can be targeted to improve electronic health record design through customization, integration, and refinement to support patient safety and better outcomes.

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