A day-long symposium on Feb. 23 before the official start of HIMSS14 the next day will focus on challenges and solutions to making health information technology safer.

Safety advocate Dean Sittig, PhD, professor of biomedical informatics at the University of Texas Health Science Center, will give the closing keynote and focus on the progress made during the past five years and work remaining in the next five. “I’ve got ideas on what we need to do that we’re still not doing,” he says.

For instance, there still is no nationwide reporting system to alert electronic health records vendors about safety issues users have found, and no reporting to the federal government when an EHR system is down for more than 24 hours. Such reporting is necessary to raise awareness and pressure, Sittig believes. “I think that would get people’s attention if they had to report that had have it publicly available.”

During the keynote, Sittig will give examples of what can go wrong with I.T. systems and has gone wrong. With reporting, I.T. users can learn to avoid errors and downtime, he says. He’ll also explain the federal government’s recently released SAFER self-assessment tools, which he helped develop.

The lasting impression Sittig wants to leave with the audience is simple: “EHRs are the key to improving quality and safety, but it will be a lot of work to get to that potential. That’s the next step we need to take.”

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