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Report Targets Health IT-Related Patient Safety Problems

A recent Bipartisan Policy Center report outlines ways policymakers, providers, and developers can improve patient safety with health IT.

Patient Safety

Source: Thinkstock

By Kate Monica

- The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) yesterday released a report exploring the relationship between patient safety and health IT and ways providers, policymakers and health IT developers can improve it.

The organization outlined the progress made thus far in the healthcare industry to improve health IT-related patient safety, as well as policy recommendations to spur the implementation of a health IT framework centered on patient safety and innovation.

“Numerous studies have shown that health IT reduces medication errors, improves quality outcomes, and reduces the cost of care,” wrote authors. “However, there are instances in which health IT has the potential to create harm if not effectively developed, implemented, or used.”

BPC stated the Executive and Legislative Branches and the private sector together must promote a more advanced oversight framework for health IT.

In the report, BPC highlighted the following three action steps to propel health IT into a more safety-centric framework:

BPC also outlined the key principles guiding the optimized health IT framework.

First, the organization stated health IT safety should be integrated into broader patient safety efforts.

“Health IT, once implemented, is part of a larger sociotechnical system within health care that also includes people—such as clinicians and patients—organizations, processes, and the external environment,” write authors.

Envisioning health IT as one cog in a larger sociotechnical machine designed to work with other parts of the system encourages health IT developers and users to align patient safety efforts in health IT with patient safety efforts industry-wide.

Next, BCP stated patient safety efforts should address the entire health IT life cycle from design and development to maintenance, upgrades, and operations.

The organization then emphasized the importance of viewing patient safety as a shared responsibility.

“Education, training, and proficiency of users can also play a critical role,” wrote authors. “Therefore, improving the safety of health IT and its use is a shared responsibility among developers and implementers of health IT and users—such as clinicians, other health care professionals, hospitals, and other provider organizations.”

Branching off the previous principle, the organization also stated a learning system approach will be most effective in driving improvements.

“Concerns about liability can deter users and developers from sharing information about near-misses and hazards, representing a missed opportunity for learning and improvement,” noted authors. “A non-punitive, learning system approach toward health IT safety is necessary to encourage participation of all stakeholders, enable a more accurate and comprehensive assessment of actions that may cause harm, and advance the development and adoption of best practices, methods, and standards to mitigate risk and support effective interventions.”

Encouraging health IT users to share their mistakes with others allows for the opportunity for healthcare organization staff to learn from these errors and take preventive steps to mitigate similar incidents in the future.

Finally, BPC stated the industry-wide focus on data-driven, evidence-based approaches should extend to health IT. 

According to the organization, standards, best practices, methods, and other tools should be evidence based and the identification of health IT safety issues in need of intervention should be data-driven.

After outlining the key principles guiding the framework, BPC sets forth three elements health IT users and developers should combine with the key principles to complete the patient safety framework. 

By implementing these three elements alongside the aforementioned principles and recommendations, health IT users and developers can identify and prioritize patient safety issues and ultimately reduce patient harm.  

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