Making Health IT Safer and Easier to Use

Melissa's Mentions
Every day, clinicians work tirelessly to provide the best possible care for their patients. Clinicians and other health care providers like hospitals are increasingly using health information technology (health IT) such as electronic health records (EHRs), and a growing body of evidence shows health IT can help them make care safer. However, new technology can pose challenges and risks. At the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), patient safety is a top priority, and that’s why we maintain the SAFER Guides to help with the implementation decisions clinicians make to reduce EHR associated patient harm. (SAFER is the acronym for Safety Assurance Factors for Electronic Health Record Resilience.)

The inherent safety of a health IT system depends on the interactive work of software developers, EHR implementers, and clinical users of EHRs. All of these stakeholders have a shared responsibility to make, maintain, and use the system safely. Yet, we often hear that the health IT in use today often falls short of users’ expectations. EHR usability—the ease with which an EHR can be employed to help deliver care—and the safety of a system is heavily influenced by two key design decision processes: (1) the developers’ decisions about the functionalities or capabilities in the software created by the developer, and (2) those decisions made by the installing facility or practice when the EHR is implemented and customized. (ONC issues guidance on functionalities and capabilities through the ONC Health IT Certification Program.)…

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