A New Challenge Competition – Can you Help Make EHR Safety Reporting Easy

Andrew Gettinger, M.D. | May 22, 2018

Reporting on the safe use of health information technology (health IT) – especially the use of electronic health records (EHRs) – continues to be a challenge to many healthcare providers. While health IT adoption has increased significantly (as of 2015, 96 percent of hospitals and 78 percent of office-based physicians had certified EHRs), usability and the ease-of-reporting concerns remain.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) has long championed the safe use of health IT, releasing the Safety Assurance Factors for EHR Resilience (SAFER) Guides. These guides are resources that provide all sizes of healthcare organizations and EHR developers with evidence-based recommendations they can use to optimize the safety and safe use of EHRs.  Appropriate implementation of health IT, along with user training, improves the usability and the safe use of health IT by all EHR users, including physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, and other clinicians.

Stakeholder feedback – and our own experiences – show that there is a need for more efficient and user-friendly mechanisms that allow EHR end users to report concerns quickly and easily, with little or no disruption to their workflow. The vast majority of EHRs currently in use in physician offices and hospitals require the end user to either log out of the EHR system entirely or leave the current workflow process to report a problem. Some EHRs even include a separate error reporting module, but others require the end user to fill out a report through a totally separate mechanism.

These workflow disruptions place a large enough burden on many users that they just avoid reporting altogether[1].  As a result, we as an industry have less data about potential health IT safety issues and are ill equipped to determine root causes, provide feedback to EHR developers, and produce best practice guidance.

The goal of ONC’s Easy EHR Issue Reporting Challenge is to help EHR users identify, document, and report a potential health IT safety issue when it happens.

The goal of ONC’s Easy EHR Issue Reporting Challenge is to help EHR users identify, document, and report a potential health IT safety issue when it happens. To meet this goal, ONC is challenging software developers to produce an application that will:

  • Integrate with an EHR’s workflow;
  • Minimize the time and effort needed to create a report (using existing system data and workflow);
  • Allow the clinician practice, hospital, or end user to choose the parties to whom it reports; and
  • Be EHR platform-agnostic.

Submitters must undertake user testing and/or co-design the tool with end users (preferably a mix of physicians, nurses, and other clinicians) and report on direct feedback received during development of the application.

Submissions are due Monday, October 15, 2018. Prizes will be awarded at the end of the challenge to individuals or entities who best meet challenge evaluation criteria. A total of $80,000 in prizes will be available.

[1] Middleton et al. Enhancing patient safety and quality of care by improving the usability of electronic health records systems: recommendations from AMIA. J Am Med Inform Assoc; 2013.