A national survey assessing the number of records allowed open in electronic health records at hospitals and ambulatory sites.
Wrong-patient errors can occur during computerized provider order entry, particularly if ordering clinicians have more than one patient record open. Experts have recommended that health systems allow only a single patient record to be open at a time to prevent these errors. This national survey of electronic health record leaders examined whether health systems permit records for multiple patients to be open simultaneously for electronic ordering and documentation. Nearly 200 health systems responded to the survey, and respondents described widely differing practices. Among health systems where clinicians could open multiple patient records at a time, the common justification was to support efficiency. A significant proportion did impose a restriction of working on one patient record at a time, and a smaller group limited clinicians to working with two open patient records only. These results suggest that further study of the optimal number of open patient records is needed to balance safety and efficiency in completing electronic health record work.