New Patient Safety Standards Proposed For EHR Certification

Posted on July 11, 2011 I Written By

Katherine Rourke is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

Here’s a proposal that could make Meaningful Use standards and vendor certification programs more valuable. Authors writing for the Journal of the American Medical Association have suggested that the Joint Commission’s National Patient Safety Goals for 2011 be included in EHR certification and MU criteria.

Here’s how the JAMA authors suggest linking EHR standards with the NPSG list:

* Patient identification:  EHRs can and should make patient identification more reliable, in part by including patient photos. EHRs should also require caregivers to re-enter patient initials if patients seem to have similar names, the comment suggests.

* Physician notification:  EHRs should not only ping physicians when a patient has abnormal test results, but also require doctors to respond by a given deadline, according to the article.

* Improving medication safety:  As long as they don’t warp clinical workflow and create additional risk of error, EHRs should support bar code med administration and clinical decision support, the JAMA authors say.

* Infection control:  EHRs should track patients with dangerous infections, and also offer checklists which can improve clinicians’ compliance with IC protocols, according to the proposal.

* Medication reconciliation:  One of the most obvious ways the NPSGs, Meaningful Use and EHRs can work together is to support appropriate med reconciliation, particularly by improving interoperability between med lists across organizations and varied EHRs, the writers suggest.

* Suicide risk:  Here’s an intriguing idea. The authors argue that EHRs should include a checklist to assess risk for patient self-harm, as well as notifying clinicians for patients who should be screened for depression.

As an analyst, rather than clinician, I don’t have any direct comments on the list of safety proposals. But I must say that from my perspective, this approach seems smart, practical and even better, focused.  Adding specific patient safety goals to EHR standards — rather than debating over broad safety issues — looks like a great idea.  Am I missing something here, or do you share my enthusiasm?