Health IT and patient safety: 5 things to know

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Health IT can be an excellent tool in improving efficiency in healthcare, but it can also pose significant risks to patient safety when something goes awry. "When not used appropriately, [health IT] can add a layer of complexity to an already complex system," said Jerry Castro, project director for the Office of Patient Safety at The Joint Commission in an interview on a Take 5 With the Joint Commission podcast. Here are some of the most important health IT considerations for patient safety, according to Mr. Castro:

1. Safety issues occur when a health IT interface is not optimal for the clinician's task at hand or when the interface impedes workflow or communication.

2. When making health IT systems safer, use a systems approach. This enables the organization to understand how health IT incidents occur in the context of the people using the technology and the workflow or systems around that person.

3. Heath IT is most effective when it supports information transfer and communication.

4. As a contributing factor to patient safety issuers, health IT plays the most significant role in medication errors, wrong-site surgeries and delays in treatment, according to a Joint Commission analysis.

5. According to Joint Commission data, organizations with the best health IT patient safety track records have integrated their health IT people into conversations about patient safety.

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