ONC updates SAFER guides, outlines best practices for EHR configuration

In addition to checklists and templates to help improve quality and safety, the new guides offer tips on prevention and mitigation of ransomware.
By Mike Miliard
01:18 PM
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ONC updates SAFER guides

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT has updated its SAFER guides, first published in 2014, outlining recommendations for optimal use of electronic health records to ensure patient safety.

The SAFER guides – it stands for Safety Assurance Factors for Electronic Health Record Resilience – were first published in 2014, but the evolution of clinical technology since then necessitated new versions, according to ONC Chief Medical Information Officer Andrew Gettinger, MD.

Technology vendors, IT staff and clinical end users are all critical to effective use of EHRs, he said – noting that the safety and usability are heavily dependent on two key design decisions: the developers' choices about the functionalities of their software, and the decisions made by hospitals and practices when the EHR is implemented and customized.

The updated SAFER guides, which draw on recommendations from groups such as the HIMSS EHR Association, the National Quality Forum, the National Academy of Medicine, and the American Medical Informatics Association, offer recommendations, checklists and templates for provider organizations to assess the safety and usability of their EHR systems.

Among the new features: guidance on improving communication of abnormal results to patients and tips for the prevention and mitigation of ransomware, with advice about managing system downtimes in the event of a cyber attack.

Beyond the obvious value for patient safety, Gettinger notes that the updated guides will be useful for clinicians in small practices working to improve care delivery for participation in Medicare's Quality Payment Program.

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN