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ONC EHR Innovation Challenge to Streamline Safety Reporting

ONC is launching an EHR innovation challenge for solutions that ease safety reporting for providers.

A new ONC EHR innovation challenge prompts health IT innovators to develop solutions to ease safety reporting.

Source: Thinkstock

By Kate Monica

- A new ONC EHR innovation challenge prompts health IT developers to create solutions that ease safety reporting for providers to reduce administrative burden and optimize EHR-related safety.

Specifically, the Easy EHR Issue Reporting Challenge will require health IT developers to create applications that can help EHR users easily identify, document, and report a potential health IT safety issue.

“The vast majority of EHRs currently in use in physician offices and hospitals require the end user to either log out of the EHR system entirely or leave the current workflow process to report a problem,” wrote ONC Chief Clinical Officer Andrew Gettinger, MD in a recent Health IT Buzz blog post.  

“Some EHRs even include a separate error reporting module, but others require the end user to fill out a report through a totally separate mechanism,” he continued.

These extra steps augment provider burden by disrupting workflows and may discourage providers from reporting EHR safety problems at all.

“As a result, we as an industry have less data about potential health IT safety issues and are ill equipped to determine root causes, provide feedback to EHR developers, and produce best practice guidance,” stated Gettinger.

In an effort to improve EHR safety reporting, ONC is challenging health IT developers to innovate solutions that achieve the following:

Health IT innovators interested in participating in the challenge must undergo user testing and/or co-design their EHR safety reporting tools with end-users. Innovators are encouraged to collaborate with physicians, nurses, and other clinicians during the development of submitted applications.

As part of the challenge, innovators will report on direct feedback from end-users throughout the tool development process.

Submissions are due October 15, 2018. ONC will award a total of $80,000 in prizes to individuals or entities who best meet challenge evaluation criteria.

“Appropriate implementation of health IT, along with user training, improves the usability and the safe use of health IT by all EHR users, including physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, and other clinicians,” wrote Gettinger.

The challenge furthers ONC’s work to promote safe health IT use.

Healthcare organizations are presently in need of significant improvements to EHR-related safety practices — according to a recent study, adherence to recommended EHR safety practices is low.

Researchers assessed healthcare organization adherence to EHR safety practices by conducting risk assessments of eight organizations of varying size, complexity, and EHR adoption maturity. Researchers also assessed the number of ONC Safety Assurance Factors for EHR Resilience (SAFER) recommendations that had been fully implemented at participating healthcare organizations.

ONC first released its SAFER Guides in January 2014. In 2017, the federal agency updated its SAFER Guides to provide healthcare organizations and EHR developers with evidence-based recommendations for improving EHR usability and health IT use safety.

Key updates to the guides include a new recommendation for communicating abnormal test results to patients, as well as an update to the Contingency Planning Guide that reflects best practices for prevention and mitigation of ransomware attacks.

Ultimately, researchers found only 25 of 140 SAFER recommendations were fully implemented among the eight observed healthcare organizations.

Providers part of the study were more likely to follow technical recommendations related to EHR use rather than recommendations that require workflow and clinical process improvements. Provider adherence was also low for recommendations related to using technology to reduce patient safety concerns.

While the use of EHR-related safety practices is currently lackluster among healthcare organizations, researchers posited that uptake of SAFER recommendations will likely increase as healthcare organizations become more confident in their abilities to develop new policies, procedures, and clinical workflow changes.

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