logo-ascls-highresHealth information technology can be described as a bridge that connects multiple pieces of the health care system.  From routine transmission of medical information between caregivers to the analysis of trends indicating possible public health concerns, health informatics can be a valuable tool.  As we become more reliant on health informatics, it is important to place a strong emphasis on the connection between technology and patient safety.

While technological advances can increase the ability to ensure patient safety, careful consideration should be given to the development and implementation of new health information technologies. By selecting a platform that meets the needs of all users, health care organizations can improve patient outcomes. The Institute of Medicine suggests that health informatics vendors should work closely with end-users to ensure usability, interoperability, efficient workflow, and the effective transmission of diagnostic data between all individuals, including the patient, who are involved in the diagnostic process.1

Safety issues related to health informatics are often the result of problems encountered during the implementation phase, as well as design flaws.2 If end-users are not properly trained or if they feel that a system does not meet the requirements that allow them to effectively perform their job, it can lead to the creation of work-arounds that pose a patient safety risk.  Organizations must also promote transparency and accountability regarding patient safety issues involving health informatics errors.3

The use of health information technologies can be a valuable tool to support patient safety initiatives.  By involving individuals from all levels of an organization in the development process, end-users are less likely to demonstrate resistance to new technologies.  Focus should be placed on training and adequate testing of functionality prior to implementation.  Health informatics offer a plethora of mechanisms that promote patient safety, but the full benefit is recognized only when an organization uses a teamwork approach to development and application.

  1. National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. (2015).  Improving diagnosis in health care.  Washington, D.C.:  The National Academy Press.
  2. Aziz, H.A. & Alsharabasi, O.A. (2015).  Electronic health records uses and malpractice risks.  Clinical Laboratory Science, 28(4), 250-255.
  3. Institute of Medicine. (2011). Health IT and patient safety: building safer systems for better care. Washington, D.C.: The National Academy Press.