Creating an Oversight Infrastructure for Electronic Health Record–Related Patient Safety Hazards

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Abstract

Electronic health records (EHRs) have potential quality and safety benefits. However, reports of EHR-related safety hazards are now emerging. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology recently sponsored an Institute of Medicine committee to evaluate how health information technology use affects patient safety. In this article, we propose the creation of a national EHR oversight program to provide dedicated surveillance of EHR-related safety hazards and to promote learning from identified errors, close calls, and adverse events. The program calls for data gathering, investigation/analysis, and regulatory components. The first 2 functions will depend on institution-level EHR safety committees that will investigate all known EHR-related adverse events and near-misses and report them nationally using standardized methods. These committees should also perform routine safety self-assessments to proactively identify new risks. Nationally, we propose the long-term creation of a centralized, nonpartisan board with an appropriate legal and regulatory infrastructure to ensure the safety of EHRs. We discuss the rationale of the proposed oversight program and its potential organizational components and functions. These include mechanisms for robust data collection and analyses of all safety concerns using multiple methods that extend beyond reporting, multidisciplinary investigation of selected high-risk safety events, and enhanced coordination with other national agencies to facilitate broad dissemination of hazards information. Implementation of this proposed infrastructure can facilitate identification of EHR-related adverse events and errors and potentially create a safer and more effective EHR-based health care delivery system.

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