ONC Publishes New Reports on Health IT Safety

Andrew Gettinger | June 10, 2016

Safety is and always has been a top priority at ONC. We have incorporated safety into the ONC Health IT Certification Program [PDF-257KB] and our guiding documents, the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan: 2015 – 2020 [PDF-1.2MB] and Shared Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap.  More specifically, ONC created a series of tools to help with the safe use of health IT, including a guide to e-prescribing and nine self-assessment protocols (called SAFER guides) that identify recommended practices to optimize the safety and safe use of electronic health records (EHRs).

Last year, we issued the Health IT Safety and Surveillance Plan with the charge to “Learn, Improve, and Lead” on health IT safety. As part of this ongoing effort, today we are publishing two external reports we supported: Report of the Evidence on Health IT Safety and Interventions and Goals and Priorities for Health Care Organizations to Improve Safety Using Health IT.

The first report [PDF-268] examines the most recent evidence in this rapidly expanding field. This broad survey identifies gaps in research; encourages the development or refinement of existing tools or interventions that could enhance the safety and safe use of health IT; highlights information about the types, frequency and severity of safety events, issues related to usability and interoperability, and tools and interventions that can improve safety.

The second report [PDF-461KB] provides recommendations and suggested solutions to potential safety issues. It is an excellent resource for anyone looking to set their health IT safety goals and priorities, as it provides practical, actionable steps that can be implemented to help reduce the potential of health IT-related adverse events.

Taken together, these reports highlight two key elements of health IT safety that inform our work across the board at ONC:

  • Evidence continues to indicate that health IT safety is dependent not just on EHR systems themselves, but on a complex interplay of factors, including an institution’s leadership, culture, readiness, installation practices, training, and handling of upgrades.  Improving safety requires attention to all of these areas.
  • Efforts to enhance usability and interoperability across the health IT landscape also provide important opportunities to improve the safe use and safety of health IT.

These reports are just part of our focus on promoting the safe use of health IT. In fact, the President’s FY 2017 Budget proposed nearly $5 million to support health IT safety, including the creation of the Health IT Safety Collaborative.

The Collaborative and associated activities will bolster patient safety across the health IT community, will generate substantial efficiencies by enhancing coordination and alignment of activities, and will encourage greater levels of private investment in health IT safety. It builds on our efforts to ensure that health IT developers build their systems following usability principles; facilities and providers implement their systems and workflows to ensure they are used safely, and making sure that all the users are trained in using the new systems.

We know that we can help to reduce the potential of health IT-related safety events to ensure better outcomes for patients. Working together, we have a tremendous opportunity to improve health care by improving the safety of health IT. I encourage our health IT stakeholders to download and read these two reports and put the other tools we have developed to work.

Report of the Evidence on Health IT Safety and Interventions [PDF – 268KB]

Goals and Priorities for Health Care Organizations to Improve Safety Using Health IT [PDF – 461KB]