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Performance of health IT systems a top concern for patient safety

The use of technology in healthcare is no longer a concern for only the physicians and other staff members responsible for operating the tech. Patients are also preoccupied with the structure of health IT systems and anxious that the negative performance of those systems may interfere with how they are treated.

The ECRI Institute, a medical testing organization based in Plymouth Meeting, Pa., created its third annual list of the top 10 patient safety issues at healthcare organizations. Heading up the list — and beating out processes more directly associated with patient care, such as the inadequate cleaning of flexible endoscopes and medication errors — was the matter of health IT systems not working cooperatively.

Healthcare facilities that install a new technology and hope for the best without making any post-implementation adjustments could be unknowingly contributing to patients’ anxiety about health IT. In a release, Robert C. Giannini, patient safety analyst and consultant at the ECRI Institute, summarized these occurrences and said “after the implementation, people continue to do things the same way and really don’t adjust the health IT system or their workflow.”

A pair of other healthcare safety issues appearing in ECRI’s top 10 list could involve IT systems. Patient identification errors were found to be common and serious, according to ECRI research. Insufficient reporting of test results and follow-up care was another patient safety dilemma noted by ECRI.

Last year’s ECRI top 10 list also contained a few items that linked inadequate health IT performance to substandard patient safety. The integrity of patient data held within health IT systems, such as EHRs, was called into question, as was the malfunctioning of patient-handling devices. Cybersecurity snuck onto the list as well and, according to a recent TechTarget survey on health IT buying intentions for 2016, it remains a priority for health IT professionals. More than half of the 181 employees that responded to the survey said reinforcing their compliance and security practices will be the primary focus of their spending this year.