Safety huddles to proactively identify and address electronic health record safety

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Objective: Methods to identify and study safety risks of electronic health records (EHRs) are underdeveloped and largely depend on limited end-user reports. “Safety huddles” have been found useful in creating a sense of collective situational awareness that increases an organization’s capacity to respond to safety concerns. We explored the use of safety huddles for identifying and learning about EHR-related safety concerns.

Design: Data were obtained from daily safety huddle briefing notes recorded at a single midsized tertiary-care hospital in the United States over 1 year. Huddles were attended by key administrative, clinical, and information technology staff. We conducted a content analysis of huddle notes to identify what EHR-related safety concerns were discussed. We expanded a previously developed EHR-related error taxonomy to categorize types of EHR-related safety concerns recorded in the notes.

Results: On review of daily huddle notes spanning 249 days, we identified 245 EHR-related safety concerns. For our analysis, we defined EHR technology to include a specific EHR functionality, an entire clinical software application, or the hardware system. Most concerns (41.6%) involved “EHR technology working incorrectly,” followed by 25.7% involving “EHR technology not working at all.” Concerns related to “EHR technology missing or absent” accounted for 16.7%, whereas 15.9% were linked to “user errors.”

Conclusions: Safety huddles promoted discussion of several technology-related issues at the organization level and can serve as a promising technique to identify and address EHR-related safety concerns. Based on our findings, we recommend that health care organizations consider huddles as a strategy to promote understanding and improvement of EHR safety.

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