CCHIT chair: Tips to use EHRs to improve safety

How well can your EHR system protect patients from substandard patient care? Evidently quite a bit, according to Karen Bell, chair of the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology (CCHIT).

Bell, citing a recent report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) calling for better patient safety in HIT, notes that providers should consider patient safety when evaluating and using EHR systems. While there is no one assessment tool that providers can use to test EHRs regarding safe care, providers can take practical steps to see if their EHRs include the most up-to-date functions and features to improve patient safety--and to check whether the providers are using them.

Bell's checklist is an excellent resource for providers shopping for and implementing EHR systems. Just a few features she recommends include:


  • Secure messaging between provider and patients
  • Patient-specific instructions and education materials
  • Documentation of verbal, phone and electronic messages


  • Efficient and reliable documentation of findings and results
  • Templates that default to normal findings only when the patient has been examined and the provider has reported positive findings
  • Ability to document why the provider chose to act or not act on an alert

Diagnosis/treatment issues

  • Alerts that are meaningful to providers
  • Closed loop ordering, including notifications when a test result has not been returned or when a patient doesn't fill a prescription

To learn more:
- here's Bell's full list of suggestions
- read the IOM report (.pdf)