ONC suite of guides aims to boost EHR safety

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT announced this week that it has issued nine guides to help healthcare organizations assess the safety of electronic health records and to use them effectively. Known as the Safety Assurance Factors for EHR Resilience (SAFER) Guides, they offer a suite of tools that include checklists and recommended practices to boost EHR safety.

The nine guides are:

  • High Priority Practices
  • Organizational Responsibilities
  • Patient Identification
  • CPOE with Decision Support
  • Test Results Review and Follow-up
  • Clinician Communication
  • Contingency Planning
  • System Interfaces
  • System Configuration

The guides have been in the works since the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services released a final health IT safety plan last July, Jacob Reider, ONC Chief Medical Officer, said in a post yesterday to the Health IT Buzz blog.

"We've never before had a set of tools that care delivery organizations can use to perform self-assessments and developer customized improvement plans," Reider said. "[W]e've learned that there is a great deal of variability in how information technology is implemented and optimized in care delivery organizations, and this variability may account for some of the problems with the safety and reliability of health IT. These guides help enhance the likelihood that health information technology is implemented in a manner that aligns with best practice."

The SAFER Guide on High Priority Practices is the place to start, Reider said. It will help organizations identify high priority, high-risk practices associated with health IT use, and then suggest which other SAFER Guides might help.

The guides can be downloaded at HealthIT.gov. A video on the site discusses the problem of having to recreate records for the previous 24 hours, for instance, when a system backup fails, highlighting the need for contingency planning.

The HHS health IT safety action plan builds on recommendations from a 2011 Institute of Medicine report and calls for shared responsibility within HHS and for significant participation from the private sector.

The HIMSS EHR Association also released a code of conduct in June focused on patient safety.

To learn more:
- here's the announcement
- find the blog post
- download the guides
- watch the video

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