Health IT Safety Projects Hindered by Other Priorities, Report Finds

July 14, 2014 in News

Health IT safety projects often are hampered by other competing priorities, such as business growth and quality of services provided, at hospitals and provider organizations, according to a report produced by the RAND Corporation and the ECRI Institute for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, FierceHealthIT reports.

The report involved 11 organizations and six case studies (Bowman, FierceHealthIT, 7/11).

Report Findings

The report found that the most frequently cited difficultly in implementing health IT safety projects was the timely and sufficient allocation of workers and other staff resources to the projects. According to the report, a “mismatch” between the project’s scope and available staffing occasionally led to poor outcomes, even if the organization had the needed expertise.

In addition, the report found that:

  • The organizations that were most prepared to find and mitigate health IT safety risks have in-house experts and prior experience in conducting organization quality improvement and risk management projects;
  • Organizations were more likely to target interventions toward “previously known problems” with electronic health records, rather than toward issues identified through a diagnostic assessment;
  • Organizations were more likely to proceed with projects that aligned with the organization’s other initiatives and priorities;
  • Organizations with project teams that had close contact with the organizations’ senior leadership were more likely to make progress in identifying and resolving health IT safety risks;
  • Organizations typically considered health IT a solution to patient safety problems and overlooked the potential of health IT to exacerbate existing safety problems or generate new risks; and
  • Ambulatory practices were more likely than hospitals to have greater difficulty in identifying and addressing health IT safety risks (Kenyon/Helwig, “Health IT Buzz,” 7/10).

Researchers’ Comments

The researchers concluded that “awareness of the safety risks introduced by health IT is limited” and that organizations need better tools to address problems and improve patient safety.

They added that while some resources, such as the Safety Assurance Factors for EHR Resilience Guides, are an “excellent beginning” for health IT safety initiatives, the tools cannot be leveraged to their “full potential” until organizations have a better awareness about health IT safety risks, especially those presented by EHRs (FierceHealthIT, 7/11).

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