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How Healthcare Providers Can Improve EHR Patient Safety

Installing updated software and ensuring accuracy are two key ways to improve EHR patient safety.

By Sara Heath

EHR vendor eClinicalWorks has issued a periodic statement on improving patient safety, reminding end users to always update their EHR software and to ensure accuracy of treatment orders.

According to the vendor, patient safety risks are inherent to EHRs, especially in medication management, electronic prescribing, and the ordering process for tests and procedures.

“Ensuring the safety of patients requires collaboration and communication between individuals, their physicians, others involved in healthcare delivery, and EHR companies,” eClinicalWorks said. “The use of eCW’s EHR software carries with it risks related to medication management, electronic prescribing, and the ordering process for tests and procedures, which are among the most complex functions performed by any EHR system.”

In order to mitigate these risks, eCW issued a series of recommendations, most of which include installing all software updates and confirming medication and test ordering.

According to eCW, all or its EHR users should update to the most recent version of their software, which is version V10-SP1-8 or higher.

Additionally, all users should update to the most recent version of Medispan or Multum, which are drug databases the EHR vendor uses to ensure that all drug-related information is up-to-date. For cloud users, these databases will have updated automatically. For those not using the cloud, these databases will need to be updated manually.

Healthcare organizations can also improve patient safety by improving practice workflow. For example, providers should always confirm order accuracy, and encourage their patients to do so through strong patient education and patient portal use.

Providers should also follow the correct procedure for changing or correcting a medication order. Instead of editing the medication order to change the dosage or route, providers should cancel the initial order and submit an entirely new one with the revised dosage or route.

Due to their complexity and risks, providers should also avoid using custom medication orders, and practice caution when custom medication orders are necessary.

eCW says that healthcare organizations should appoint patient safety officers to lead this charge. This individual will serve as the liaison between the practice and eCW and report all patient safety issues.

Patient safety officers can also be in charge of reading, understanding, and informing the practice about patient safety notices. eCW reportedly issues notices periodically, and also keeps a backlog of them on its website.

eClinicalWorks also suggests providers encourage patients to play a role in safety improvement efforts. For example, patients to stay educated about their care by proactively asking providers questions and accessing information through a patient portal.

Improving patient education and engagement can empower patients to confirm medication orders and help catch potential errors.

Last, eClinicalWorks suggests patients, providers, and caregivers to all stay vigilant of patient safety issues. When one arises, they should contact eClinicalWorks or HHS.

Patient safety is an important topic with regard to physician EHR use. Late last month, the ONC issued a report on improving patient safety while using EHR “pick lists,” or drop-down menus for medication orders.

The report states that pick list errors often occur when the provider selects the incorrect patient from the drop-down menu, or when the provider selects the incorrect medication from the drop-down menu. Through better data integrity and patient education, ONC says healthcare providers can potentially mitigate these patient safety concerns.

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