Whether you’re working in a public health setting, or documenting medications during ambulatory care, or even optimizing systems in a large healthcare system, opportunities present themselves for instilling a culture of safety, the theme of National Nurses Week 2016. Clearly, ensuring safety is a concept embraced and advocated for by every nurse. And, informatics nurses can prevent safety issues as they configure, integrate and optimize health information technology (IT) systems and devices.
Health technology hazards are consistently monitored by the ECRI Institute to bring focus to the topic, and minimize the likelihood that adverse events will occur. Their 2016 list of the Top Ten Patient Safety Concerns includes several issues related to technology that informatics nurses can help prevent.
- Health IT Configurations and Organizational Workflow That Do Not Support Each Other
Workflow can become more efficient through the use of health IT. But if organizations don’t involve frontline staff, in addition to informatics nurses in the planning, configuring, and testing of the integration of technology with workflow, errors can occur. Work arounds, or even gaps in the availability of data at the right time and place can lead to errors in documentation and flawed decision making.
- Patient Identification Errors
Being able to correctly identify an individual is an essential foundation for delivering safe and effective care. However, in part because the U.S. has not yet adopted a unique patient identifier, there is no consistent solution for identifying individuals. Healthcare organizations have implemented patient matching procedures, and health IT systems offer algorithms and other solutions to address the problem. Yet, ECRI Institute analysts discovered that patient identification issues were frequent, and serious consequences were evident.
- Inadequate Test-Result Reporting and Follow-up
Timely reporting of test results can easily be enabled by health IT systems. But a number of things can go wrong. Lack of integration of systems can create siloes of data that block test results for providers and patients. Or, patients may not understand how to use their portal(s) to access results, or communicate electronically with their providers.
- Failure to Embrace a Culture of Safety
The leaders of an organization must be committed to a culture of safety for its impact to resonate throughout the organization. This commitment should be backed by visible support and adequate resources in order to have the desired result.
I hope you will use this list as a starting point for discussions in your own organization, and develop strategies to address these concerns. What better time than National Nurses Week to begin a campaign to instill a culture of safety!