HIT safety barriers for hospitals include staffing, funds

Health technology safety efforts often are forced to compete with other "priorities" at provider organizations, including business growth and quality of service, according to a recent research report from RAND and the ECRI Institute published on behalf of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT. The report was touted in a July 10 Health IT Buzz blog post and involved 11 organizations and six case studies.

The report's authors found that securing resources--both in terms of staff effort and funding--has been the "most frequently cited barrier" to the success of health IT safety efforts. For instance, they noted, in many cases examined, employees charged with health IT safety maintenance divided their time between managing risk and working on Meaningful Use or the ICD-10 transition.

"With few exceptions, awareness of the safety risks introduced by health IT is limited," the authors said. Better tools, they said, are needed to help organizations use health IT to improve care and optimize safety.

Additionally, they said that while resources like the Safety Assurance Factors for EHR Resilience (SAFER) Guides are an "excellent beginning" for health IT safety efforts, such tools can't be used "to their full potential" until organizations have improved knowledge of the safety risks associated with tools, in particular, electronic health records.

The ONC's Health IT Policy Committee, at its monthly meeting earlier this week, endorsed governance, function and focus recommendations for a proposed Health IT Safety Center, which aims to understand and correct patient harm associated with health technology use. Creation of the safety center was a priority listed on ONC's FY 2015 proposed budget, as well as in the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act report unveiled in April.

Last December, ONC issued guidance designed to improve reporting of unsafe conditions--including by patient safety organizations and even IT developers--associated with health IT, and EHRs in particular.

To learn more:
- here's the report (.pdf)
- read the blog post