Electronic health records (EHRs) have potential to improve quality and safety of healthcare. However, EHR users have experienced safety concerns from EHR design and usability features that are not optimally adapted for the complex work flow of real-world practice. Few strategies exist to address unintended consequences from implementation of EHRs and other health information technologies. We propose that organizations equipped with EHRs should consider the strategy of “proactive risk assessment” of their EHR-enabled healthcare system to identify and address EHR-related safety concerns. In this paper, we describe the conceptual underpinning of an EHR-related self-assessment strategy to provide institutions a foundation upon which they could build their safety efforts. With support from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), we used a rigorous, iterative process to develop a set of 9 self-assessment tools to optimize the safety and safe use of EHRs. These tools, referred to as the Safety Assurance Factors for EHR Resilience (SAFER) guides, could be used to self-assess safety and effectiveness of EHR implementations, identify specific areas of vulnerability, and create solutions and culture change to mitigate risks. A variety of audiences could conduct these assessments, including frontline clinicians or care teams in different practices, or clinical, quality, or administrative leaders within larger institutions. The guides use a multifaceted systems-based approach to assess risk and empower organizations to work with internal or external stakeholders (eg, EHR developers) on optimizing EHR functionality and using EHRs to drive improvements in the quality and safety of healthcare.
Citation: Sittig DF, Ash JS, Singh H.The SAFER guides: empowering organizations to improve the safety and effectiveness of electronic health records. Am J Manag Care. 2014 May;20(5):418-23.