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IT safety risk protocols to guide physicians

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted May 6, 2013

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A group of researchers is developing a set of guides to help physicians and health care organizations assess their electronic systems’ patient safety hazards.

The Safety Assurance Factors for Electronic Health Record Resilience, or SAFER, study protocol was published in April and targets nine high-risk areas for which self-assessment guides will be created. Areas that will be covered include computerized physician order entry, e-prescribing, clinical decision support, test-result reporting, system-to-system data transfer and electronic health records downtime events.

“Proactive assessment of risks and vulnerabilities can help address potential EHR-related safety hazards before harm occurs,” said the protocol (link).

The federally funded project, which does not have a completion date set, comes as EHRs and other health information technologies come in for more scrutiny on safety grounds. A November 2011 Institute of Medicine report called for a federal agency to track and investigate harmful adverse events linked to health IT.

In December 2012, the Dept. of Health and Human Services Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology released its plan for IT vendors to work with patient safety organizations to track problems and allow doctors and others to report publicly and share tech-related hazards. That plan is available online (link).

More research is needed to determine the patient safety impact of EHR use in the ambulatory setting, the American Medical Association said in its comment on the ONC plan (link).

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