13 Ways to Prevent Patient Harm Related to HIT

Thursday, December 11th, 2008
This post was written by Melanie Matthews

Below are suggested actions from the Joint Commission to help prevent patient harm related to the implementation and use of HIT and converging technologies:

  1. Examine workflow processes and procedures for risks and inefficiencies and resolve these issues prior to any technology implementation. Involving representatives of all disciplines—whether they be clinical, clerical or technical—will help in the examination and resolution of these issues.
  2. Actively involve clinicians and staff who will ultimately use or be affected by the technology, along with IT staff with strong clinical experience, in the planning, selection, design, reassessment and ongoing quality improvement of technology solutions, including the system selection process. Involve a pharmacist in the planning and implementation of any technology that involves medication.
  3. Assess your organization’s technology needs beforehand (e.g., supporting infrastructure; communication of admissions, discharges, transfers, etc.). Investigate how best to meet those needs by requiring IT staff to interact with users outside their own facility to learn about real world capabilities of potential systems, including those of various vendors; conduct field trips; and look at integrated systems (to minimize reliance on interfaces between various vendor systems).
  4. During the introduction of new technology, continuously monitor for problems and address any issues as quickly as possible, particularly problems obscured by workarounds or incomplete error reporting. During the early post-live phase, consider implementing an emergent issues desk staffed with project experts and champions to help rapidly resolve critical problems. Use interdisciplinary brainstorming methods for improving system quality and giving feedback to vendors.
  5. Establish a training program for all types of clinicians and operations staff who will be using the technology and provide frequent refresher courses. Training should be appropriately designed for the local staff. Focus training on how the technology will benefit patients and staff, i.e. less inefficiency, fewer delays and less repeated work. Do not allow long delays between orientation and system implementation.
  6. Develop and communicate policies delineating staff authorized and responsible for technology implementation, use, oversight, and safety review.
  7. Prior to taking a technology live, ensure that all standardized order sets and guidelines are developed, tested on paper, and approved by the Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee (or institutional equivalent).
  8. Develop a graduated system of safety alerts in the new technology that helps clinicians determine urgency and relevancy. Carefully review skipped or rejected alerts as important insight into clinical practice. Decide which alerts need to be hard stops when using the technology and provide appropriate supporting documentation.
  9. Develop a system that mitigates potential harmful CPOE drug orders by requiring departmental or pharmacy review and sign off on orders that are created outside the usual parameters. Use the Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee (or institutional equivalent) for oversight and approval of all electronic order sets and clinical decision support alerts. Assure proper nomenclature and printed label design, eliminate dangerous abbreviations and dose designations, and ensure MAR acceptance by nurses.
  10. To improve safety, provide an environment that protects staff involved in data entry from undue distractions when using the technology.
  11. After implementation, continually reassess and enhance safety effectiveness and error-detection capability, including the use of error tracking tools and the evaluation of near-miss events.19 Maximize the potential of the technology in order to maximize the safety benefits.
  12. After implementation, continually monitor and report errors and near misses or close calls caused by technology through manual or automated surveillance techniques.19,20 Pursue system errors and multiple causations through the root cause analysis process11 or other forms of failure-mode analysis. Consider reporting significant issues to well recognized external reporting systems.
  13. Re-evaluate the applicability of security and confidentiality protocols as more medical devices interface with the IT network. Reassess HIPAA compliance on a periodic basis to ensure that the addition of medical devices to your IT network and the growing responsibilities of the IT department haven’t introduced new security and compliance risks.

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