News Corner: NQF Guidelines Support HIT Innovation and Patient Safety

Health IT continues to skyrocket, supporting hospitals and providers as they strive for increased efficiency and cost savings. However, throughout this progress, the patient cannot be forgotten. The National Quality Forum (NQF) has released their “Identification and Prioritization of Health IT Patient Safety Measures” report, identifying patient safety issues related to health information technology and providing steps that need to be taken to resolve them.

Included in the nine technological areas that pose a potential threat to patient safety identified by the NQF are:

  1. Information Interoperability – Despite increased use, many EHRs are still not interoperable, leading to problems between the interfaces of EHRs and other clinical systems. Data from providers or the EHR should be available at the point of care to help providers in treating patients based on the most accurate real-time information. 
  1. User-centered design – According to the NQF, more user-friendly systems could potentially reduce error rates and make care safer. However, this would require standardizing what is deemed “user-friendly” across systems to allow for meaningful and comparable measurement. Recent guidelines from the National Institute of Standards and Technology can help in this area.
  1. Feedback and data-sharing – Instead of burying any mistakes or potential “learning moments” involved in processes like EHR implementation or interoperability, facilities need to share this information publicly to ensure the same mistakes aren’t being made twice. To allow for this change, vendors need to support and facilitate information sharing both between users and between users and vendors.
  1. Patient engagement – Technology and more widespread availability of the Internet is allowing patients to be more engaged in their own care. To continue to foster this development, it is important to understand what topics inspire engagement, and where patients tend to pull back. Additionally, some disparities in access and ability to interact with technology still remain – industry stakeholders and legislators need to work together to help remove these barriers.

By addressing these concerns, the NQF believes health IT will continue to flourish without putting patients at risk. As HIMSS highlighted earlier this year, innovation is instrumental to future health IT success. However it’s important to also address existing concerns, helping to strengthen the groundwork for future developments.

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