New Guides Help Practices Improve EHR Use

Tony Berberabe, MPH @OncBiz_Wiz
Published: Friday, Jan 17, 2014

Dr. Jacob Reider

Jacob Reider, MD

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has released a set of guides and interactive tools to help medical practices improve their use of electronic health records (EHRs). Called the SAFER Guides, the nine self-assessment tools focus on recommended medical practices in “those areas that we know are important to the safety and safe use of health information technology,” writes Jacob Reider, MD, director, office of the chief medical officer on ONC’s blog called “Health IT Buzz.”

The nine guides focus on 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, and system configuration.

Because there’s great variability in how information technology (IT) is implemented, this might account for some of the problems practices could face, which also affects the safety and reliability of IT. Reider writes, “These guides help enhance the likelihood that health information technology is implemented in a manner that aligns with best practices. For example, the SAFER Guide on Organization Responsibility should help the leadership of health IT enabled organizations monitor critical components of the safety and safe use of health IT and make sure that a team of people – including clinicians and safety staff within the organization, as well as health information technology developers – is continuously engaged and focused on safety.”

Many of the guides are interactive, so findings in one guide could be used to suggest other SAFER guides that might also help. This is especially true for the contingency planning guide, which focuses on avoiding and recovering from downtimes, and the system interfaces and system configuration guides. All three ensure that health IT is safely designed, maintained, and configured, is reliably available, and that the information therein is accurate and current within established expectations when each clinician uses it to care for patients.

The SAFER Guides complement the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s  existing safety tools and research. The agency offers a variety of health IT tools and resources to help implement and use health IT safely, including the Health IT Hazard Manager, the Workflow Assessment for Health IT Toolkit, Implementation Tools for E-Prescribing, Consumer Health IT Design Guide, and the Guide to Reducing Unintended Consequences of EHRs.

Another resource to consider is the “Top 10 Most Reviewed Medical Systems” found on

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