HIT data integrity failures top patient safety concerns

While data integrity failures within health IT systems only ranked fourth on the ECRI Institute's list of top healthcare technology hazards published last fall, when it comes to patient safety concerns, they rank No. 1.

What's more, according to ECRI's latest top 10 patient safety concerns list, published this month, "poor care coordination with patient's next level of care" ranked second, making for an unenviable one-two punch for health IT.

"We've been collecting events since 2009, and with over 300,000 events, we're at a point where it's important to share where we're seeing recurring themes," Karen P. Zimmer, medical director of ECRI Institute's patient safety, risk, and quality group, said in the report.

Data integrity failures can include data entry errors, missing data or delayed data entry, inappropriate use of default values, copying and pasting and more, according to the report. To avoid such failures, ECRI suggested:

  • Assessment clinical workflow of data
  • System testing
  • Sufficient user training and support efforts

Care coordination is a "shared responsibility" among providers, the report noted. Electronic health records are a first step to communication among providers, but procedures must be established addressing, accessing, reviewing and acting on findings in the records.

One "simple and basic" strategy from ECRI to improve care coordination between hospitals and ambulatory settings is for practices to provide current contact information, such as phone and fax numbers, on their websites, according to Lorraine Possanza, J.D., who added, "identify the providers in your practice. If the hospital needs to contact you, the information is right there."

ECRI's top patient safety concerns list also included test results reporting errors, drug shortages, mislabeled specimens and patient falls.

Care coordination, when done correctly, has the potential to save practices and hospital systems time, money and lives. For instance, a $14 million state grant for data sharing and improved care coordination provided the means and opportunity for Rochester, N.Y.-based Unity Health System to build a private infrastructure that ties together its disparate records systems.

Last November, a report published by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that 10 projects funded by the agency that aimed to use health IT to improve care in ambulatory settings for patients with complex healthcare needs demonstrated improvements in care coordination, data sharing and patient engagement.

To learn more:
- see the full report (.pdf)

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