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ONC Rolls Out EHR Safety Guides

January 16, 2014
by Gabriel Perna
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The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has created new guidelines aimed to help providers and health IT developers use electronic health records (EHR) more safely, the agency announced this week.

ONC and HHS released what they are calling the Safety Assurance Factors for EHR Resilience (SAFER) Guides. According to HHS, these tools include checklists and recommended practices aimed to help providers and the organizations that support them assess and optimize the safety and safe use of EHRs. The SAFER guides were developed, ONC says, by leading health IT safety and informatics researchers. They are based on the latest available evidence, expert opinion, stakeholder engagement, and field work.

The guides touch on topics like:

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

According to ONC, this is one of the first milestones of its Health IT Safety Plan, an initiative that was rolled out in July of 2013. “A basic premise of the Health IT Safety Plan is that all stakeholders have a shared responsibility to make sure that health IT is safely implemented and that it is used to improve patient safety and care,”  Jacob Reider, M.D., chief medical officer at ONC, said in a statement. “The SAFER Guides combine the latest applied knowledge of health IT safety with practical tools that will help providers—working closely with EHR developers, diagnostic service providers, and others—effectively assess and optimize the safety and safe use of EHR technology within their organizations.”

The SAFER guides will each be available as a downloadable PDF and as an interactive web-based tool at

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