Improving Allergy Documentation: A Retrospective Electronic Health Record System-Wide Patient Safety Initiative

Contributing Author:

J Patient Saf. 2022 Jan 1;18(1):e108-e114. doi: 10.1097/PTS.0000000000000711.


OBJECTIVES: Documentation of allergies in a coded, non-free-text format in the electronic health record (EHR) triggers clinical decision support to prevent adverse events. Health system-wide patient safety initiatives to improve EHR allergy documentation by specifically decreasing free-text allergy entries have not been reported. The goal of this initiative was to systematically reduce free-text allergen entries in the EHR allergy module.

METHODS: We assessed free-text allergy entries in a commercial EHR used at a multihospital integrated health care system in the greater Boston area. Using both manual and automated methods, a multidisciplinary consensus group prioritized high-risk and frequently used free-text allergens for conversion to coded entries, added new allergen entries, and deleted duplicate allergen entries. Environmental allergies were moved to the patient problem list.

RESULTS: We identified 242,330 free-text entries, which included a variety of environmental allergies (42%), food allergies (18%), contrast media allergies (13%), “no known allergy” (12%), drug allergies (2%), and “no contrast allergy” (2%). Most free-text entries were entered by medical assistants in ambulatory settings (34%) and registered nurses in perioperative settings (20%). We remediated a total of 52,206 free-text entries with automated methods and 79,578 free-text entries with manual methods.

CONCLUSIONS: Through this multidisciplinary intervention, we identified and remediated 131,784 free-text entries in our EHR to improve clinical decision support and patient safety. Additional strategies are required to completely eliminate free-text allergy entry, and establish systematic, consistent, and safe guidelines for documenting allergies.

PMID:32487880 | PMC:PMC7704710 | DOI:10.1097/PTS.0000000000000711