Meaningless Use: Assessing Compliance With a Clinically Meaningless Emergency Department Documentation Requirement

Link to article at PubMed

Cureus. 2023 Apr 7;15(4):e37244. doi: 10.7759/cureus.37244. eCollection 2023 Apr.


Introduction A New York State initiative requests that Emergency Department (ED) providers document in the electronic health record (EHR) each admitted patient's employment status and, if applicable, their mode of commute. This initiative diverts them from their primary duties and increases the likelihood they will either disregard the request or input incorrect information to complete the data fields as fast as possible. This study intends to understand how well providers adhere to this regulation, which, while important for society as a whole, has little clinical relevance, especially in the ED, where the focus is to identify and treat emergent conditions. We hypothesized that clinician-collected employment data would contain many more "N/A" responses than registration-collected employment data (the "gold standard"). Methods We took a randomly selected convenience sample of 100 patients admitted from the ED and compared each patient's provider-entered response to the employment data field to the registration-recorded response. The EHR operates such that the "Employment" field must be completed in order to complete the admission electronically. Data fields collected were: last name, first name, date of birth, medical record number, date and time of arrival, date and time of admission, attending physician, resident physician (if there was one), mid-level provider (if there was one), provider-entered employment status, registration-entered employment status, admitting service (eg, Medicine, Surgery, OB/Gyn), and disposition level (eg, ICU). We assessed the percent of employment data that was concordant between the provider's entry and the registration clerk's entry. We also assessed for the potential confounding variable of how busy the ED was at time of admission, as providers may not take ask about employment or enter such data during particularly busy times. Finally, we interviewed providers to elicit reasons they did not enter accurate data. Statistical significance was set a priori at p <0.05. Results One hundred six patients were screened; six were excluded because one of the authors (MR) was their attending physician. For 92 of the remaining 100 patients, providers recorded employment as "N/A," and for eight patients they recorded "retired." For seven of these eight patients, provider entry matched registration entry (87.5% concordance). To adjust for whether how busy the ED was may have impacted the accuracy of data entry, admissions were categorized according to what time of day the patient was admitted. There was no statistically significant correlation between how busy the ED was and accuracy of data entry. The majority of providers stated they responded "NA" because the employment information was unrelated to the ED visit. Conclusion In New York, for each patient admitted from the ED, the ED provider is requested to enter the patient's job information and, if they commute to work, the method they use. However, this takes providers' attention away from what they should be doing most: diagnosing and treating patients. This study highlights the unintended consequence of requesting data fields that are not clinically relevant and, from the patient and provider perspective, are not good investments of time and energy and distract from the clinical visit. Persons interpreting such clinically irrelevant data should do so with caution, as the results are unlikely to reflect the truth of what the questions intend to determine.

PMID:37162769 | PMC:PMC10164343 | DOI:10.7759/cureus.37244

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