ONC Offers Guidance on EHR Safety

Posted on January 17, 2014 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

ONCHIT has released a new set of guidelines and tools designed to help providers make safer use of EMRs and related technology. ONCHIT calls the set of nine toolkits SAFER, or Safety Assurance Factors for EHR Resilience. (Access the toolkit here.)

According to Healthcare IT News, the SAFER tools include checklists and recommended practices designed to optimize EHR safety.  ONC officials say that this suite follows up on, and forms an important part of, the Health IT Patient Safety Action and Surveillance Plan released by HHS this past July.

The toolkits, which include self-assessment checklists, practice worksheets and recommended practices, include the following topics:

  • High-priority practices
  • Organizational responsibilities
  • Patient identification
  • CPOE and decision support
  • Test results review and follow-up
  • Clinician communication
  • Contingency planning
  • System interfaces
  • System configuration

According to officials, the SAFER guides complement existing health IT safety tools already developed by ONC and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

The idea behind these guides, it seems, is to bring evidence-based practices to an area which is still evolving rapidly. As things stand, EHR use and workflow development is subject to a lot of guessing, especially as to what pathways work best in getting providers to use EHRs most effectively and safely.

All that being said, hospital executives are eyebrow deep in operational and IT issues related to their EHR, and may be simply too overwhelmed to shift their work processes to adopt these evidence-based tools.  It will be interesting to see, in other words, whether the industry considers these guidelines to be “nice to have” or necessary.