10-Point ONC Safety Plan Seeks to Improve EHR Use

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media , July 9, 2013

The plan seeks to make it easier for front line staff to report health IT-related safety events and hazards by enabling their reports to be covered under liability protections of Patient Safety Organizations, made possible by the Patient Safety Act of 2005.

"Because PSOs and their members have federal privilege and confidentiality protections for patient safety work product, PSOs provide a secure environment where clinicians and provider organizations can collect, aggregate, and analyze data in order to identify and reduce risks associated with patient care, including issues related to health IT," the report says.

That's where AHRQ's Common Formats comes in. The template provides common definitions that enable providers to report events in the same way in terms of their potential for harm.  Versions of Common Formats now available for acute care hospitals are being adapted for skilled nursing facilities, nursing homes, and ambulatory care settings.

As a side-note to the release of the plan, the ONC also announced a contract with The Joint Commission to enhance its Sentinel Events reporting program "to better identify and address health IT-related events." 

The contract includes provisions for the commission to develop a de-identified database of events, and investigate the role of health IT as a cause of such events, and develop educational materials and training opportunities, "which will be widely available publicly, to enable health care providers to better identify, investigate, and analyze health IT-related adverse events and develop follow-up and corrective action."

Electronic health record errors have been a source of increasing concern from front line providers. For example, a recent report from an American College of Emergency Physicians panel detailed potentially critical errors in patient care when hospitals have tried to adapt inpatient electronic record systems for the much different, hurried and transitory environment of the ED.

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