New study protocol will create EHR patient safety guides

Researchers have launched a project to develop new tools to reduce patient safety risks associated with electronic health records, according to a new article in BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making.

The Safety Assurance Factors for Electronic Health Record Resilience study protocol, also known as the "SAFER project," will develop, test and validate self assessment guides for clinicians to evaluate certain high risk components of EHR-enabled clinical work systems. The researchers--from Baylor College of Medicine. Oregon Health & Science University and the University of Texas School of Biomedical Informatics--identified nine high risk areas related to EHRs and plan to release a study guide on each:

  • Computerized provider order entry (CPOE) and e-prescribing
  • Clinical decision support
  • Test result reporting
  • Communication between providers
  • Patient identification
  • EHR downtime events
  • EHR customization and configuration
  • System-system interface data transfer
  • Health IT safety-related human skills

The researchers will review hardware, software, clinical content, workflow and other components of EHRs, and use expert panels, literature research and stakeholder engagement to accomplish their tasks.  

"In building upon the work proposed here, future initiatives can help create best practices that can be used by key stakeholders to oversee the successful transformation of their health care system into a highly reliable EHR-enabled clinical work system," the researchers said. 

It's long been recognized that while EHRs can improve patient safety, they also can have an adverse affect. The Institute of Medicine released a report in 2011 outlining its concerns and offering recommendations to improve patient safety when EHRs are used. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services responded to the report in December 2012 with a draft plan to address these concerns. The final plan is expected later this year. 

To learn more:
- read about the protocol (.pdf)