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ONC SAFER Guides outline best practices

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This week the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC)released the Safety Assurance Factors for EHR Resilience (SAFER) Guides as part of the HHS Health IT Patient Safety Action and Surveillance Plan, which was issued in July 2013.  The guides outline best practices for health care organizations to implement and utilize electronic health records and reduce the chance of an adverse event.

In a blog post, ONC Chief Medical Officer Jacob Reider wrote, “As a family physician who has worked for years on making sure that health information technology is leveraged to improve the safety and quality of health care, I’m thrilled to see the SAFER Guides fill a void:  We’ve never before had a set of tools that care delivery organizations can use to perform self-assessments and developer customized improvement plans.”

Each SAFER Guide addresses a critical area associated with the safe use of EHRs. The guides include a series of self-assessment checklists, practice worksheets, and recommended practices for the following nine areas:

  • High Priority Practices
  • Organizational Responsibilities
  • Patient Identification
  • Computerized Physician Order Entry (CPOE) with Decision Support
  • Test Results Review and Follow-up
  • Clinician Communication
  • Contingency Planning
  • System Interfaces
  • System Configuration

The SAFER Guides work with current research and safety tools developed by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and ONC. EHRs currently have a large impact on patient safety, and AHRQ’s Patient Safety Organizations (PSO) identified health IT as a high priority area.  The mission of PSOs is to help members prove patient safety, and the SAFER Guides provide a tool aid them.

Last week, AHRQ’s Health IT Portfolio Director, Dr. Jon White, presented AHRQ’s effort to support the patient safety initiative as part of his presentation to the HIMSS Government Relations Roundtable. 


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