When it comes to considering the future of a healthy health information technology (IT) ecosystem, organizations need to develop a systems approach to safety. We all make mistakes, so organizations should try to engineer health IT systems, organizational structures, workflows, and processes to take this into account, making it easier to do the right thing.
The systems approach not only considers people—such as patients, clinicians and staff—it also considers the social and technical factors that can impact health IT. The technical factors include the processes, workflow, and technology itself. Other factors that impact the system include the organization’s safety culture, internal and external policies, and general environment.
With the increasingly fast pace of technological change, considering the systems approach is essential. Technology that supports and enhances clinicians’ ability to provide safe, high quality care will be more widespread, and patients will be more connected to their providers. Technology will enhance the connection through patient portals and data from wearable technology. If such a systems approach is embraced and supported, we will fully realize the benefits of health IT.
Gerry Castro, PhD, MPH, is project director of patient safety initiatives in the Office of Patient Safety at The Joint Commission.