5 ways to improve patient safety via EHR design

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society EHR Association released a report on the intersection between EHR usability and patient safety.

The report, titled "Electronic Health Record Design Patterns for Patient Safety," incorporates input from clinicians, human factors experts, software designers, software engineers and other stakeholders who have experience deploying EHRs in healthcare organizations.

Here are five EHR design considerations to improve patient safety.

1. Medications. Medication should be displayed in accordance with FDA-approved drug names with "tall man letters;" drug name, strength and dosage form should be appropriately spaced; and patient instructions should follow Universal Medication Schedule display.

2. Alert fatigue. EHRs should differentiate alerts by low, medium and high severity; the severity of an alert should determine how intrusive it is in presentation; and EHRs should use a standard structure for all alerts.

3. Lab results. EHRs should clearly distinguish new results from previous results; use a standard format for abnormal results; graphically display results over time; and offer a way to personalize how results are displayed.

4. Numeric display. When displaying numerals, EHRs should use a comma to separate groups of three digits; display a "zero" before the decimal point of numbers in fractions; eliminate a "trailing zero" after a decimal point unless necessary; and right-justify and decimal-align numbers in comparison columns.

5. Text display. When displaying texts, EHRs should aim to eliminate truncated patient or medication names; use abbreviations sparingly and carefully; consistently place labels adjacent to values; and make the difference between "no value recorded" and "actually no value" clear to users.

Click here to view the full report.

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