News Feature | August 1, 2014

Help Your Healthcare Customers Achieve Patient Safety Through IT Risk Management

By Megan Williams, contributing writer

Healthcare IT

A recent report sponsored by the Office Of The National Coordinator that examines the correlation between patient safety and IT risk management might be your latest tool in discussing the benefits of well-managed IT services with your clients.

The Report

The report summarizes research by RAND Health, ECRI Institute, the University of Texas, and Baylor College of Medicine. The study covers the identification of safety risks associated with health IT by eleven organizations (hospitals and ambulatory practices) and the implementation of risk management activities in each organization.

Health IT And Safety

Health IT’s relationship with patient safety is made up of three components:

  • Using health IT to make care safer
  • Ensuring that health IT itself is safe
  • Ensuring that health IT is used safely

While BSM has featured articles that show how IT is used to improve patient health and safety, recent research is revealing that IT can in fact pose inherent risks to patients. From hardware/software malfunctions to data corruption and poor implementations, the industry is beginning to realize that IT must be looked at with an even perspective for organizations to see true benefits.


The study covers two key challenges in identifying health IT safety risks.

  • Organizations tended to view health IT as a solution to patient safety problems, while overlooking the potential of health IT to contribute to safety problems or to create new types of safety risks. This was likely due to the fact that IT is frequently seen as simply a solution to patient safety issues. The perception was found to be more prevalent in small ambulatory practices where safety risks tend to be less obvious overall.
  • Ambulatory practices face greater challenges than hospitals in identifying and addressing health IT safety risks. Much of this disparity is caused by the lower amount of resources that ambulatory practices frequently have.


The report highlights the need in healthcare organizations for “practical, easy-to-use tools that can help organizations identify health IT-related risks and set priorities for addressing them.” It specifically mentions a diagnostic assessment tool designed for hospitals and ambulatory practices to help them identify safety risk topics and that it did not live up to expectations.

While the report makes sure to highlight the urgent need for tools and metrics that enable project teams and hospitals to do better jobs around monitoring health IT safety risks, it also acknowledges that the current structure of the EHR marketplace and EHR incentives is not one that encourages the development of any such solutions. Still, it highlights the fact that there are opportunities for such tools to be developed and implemented in ways that benefit the organizations looking to manage health IT safety risks.