EHRs: “Sloppy and paste” endures despite patient safety risk

During the winter holidays, a patient at Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut had a large pressure ulcer with an abscess. A surgical intern made a note in the patient’s electronic health record that said, “Patient needs drainage, may need OR.”

The problem? The same note appeared for several consecutive days, even after a surgical team successfully drained the abscess. The intern had copied and pasted the previous day’s note, but failed to appropriately update it to reflect the fact that the drainage was done. The note confused the consulting infectious disease team and nearly led to an unneeded change in the patient’s antibiotic regimen.

General internist Leora Horwitz, MD, was serving as attending physician and clarified the electronic record.

“I knew [the note] was rubbish,” she said.

The practice of carelessly copying and pasting previous information, often dubbed “sloppy and paste,” is on the decline at Yale-New Haven Hospital but is widespread across medicine and can lead to mix-ups that sometimes harm patients, research shows.

My latest front-page article. Read the whole shebang.