Background: Implementation and use of electronic health records (EHRs) could lead to potential improvements in quality of care. However, the use of EHRs also introduces unique and often unexpected patient safety risks. Proactive assessment of risks and vulnerabilities can help address potential EHR-related safety hazards before harm occurs; however, current risk assessment methods are underdeveloped. The overall objective of this project is to develop and validate proactive assessment tools to ensure that EHR-enabled clinical work systems are safe and effective.
Methods/design: This work is conceptually grounded in an 8-dimension model of safe and effective health information technology use. Our first aim is to develop self-assessment guides that can be used by health care institutions to evaluate certain high-risk components of their EHR-enabled clinical work systems. We will solicit input from subject matter experts and relevant stakeholders to develop guides focused on 9 specific risk areas and will subsequently pilot test the guides with individuals representative of likely users. The second aim will be to examine the utility of the self-assessment guides by beta testing the guides at selected facilities and conducting on-site evaluations. Our multidisciplinary team will use a variety of methods to assess the content validity and perceived usefulness of the guides, including interviews, naturalistic observations, and document analysis. The anticipated output of this work will be a series of self-administered EHR safety assessment guides with clear, actionable, checklist-type items.
Discussion: Proactive assessment of patient safety risks increases the resiliency of health care organizations to unanticipated hazards of EHR use. The resulting products and lessons learned from the development of the assessment guides are expected to be helpful to organizations that are beginning the EHR selection and implementation process as well as those that have already implemented EHRs. Findings from our project, currently underway, will inform future efforts to validate and implement tools that can be used by health care organizations to improve the safety of EHR-enabled clinical work systems.