Researcher Awarded Funding to Investigate Electronic Health Record-Related Safety

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A. Zach Hettinger, MD, MS, Medical Director and Director of Cognitive Informatics at MedStar Institute for Innovation (Mi2), was awarded funding for his research on health information technology (IT) and its contribution to medical errors. Members of the research team include co-investigators, Rollin (Terry) J. Fairbanks, MD, MS, associate director of Mi2, and Raj Ratwani, PhD, scientific director and senior research scientist at the MedStar National Center for Human Factors in Healthcare, along with Joseph Blumenthal; Danielle Mosby, MS; and Daniel Hoffman.

“Context is Critical: Understanding When and Why EHR-Related Safety” will utilize a technology package to capture user interactions with the electronic health records (EHR). This research combines human factors engineering and the analysis of recorded EHR interactions during patient care to demonstrate the context of errors and the contributions of EHR design elements to these errors. As part of MedStar Health’s commitment to innovation and safety, this research will help to develop an understanding of the context and contributing factors that lead to health IT safety hazards as the next necessary step to prevent EHR-facilitated medical errors.

A. Zach Hettinger, MD, MS, Medical Director and Director of Cognitive Informatics at MedStar Institute for Innovation
A. Zach Hettinger, MD, MS, Medical Director and Director of Cognitive Informatics at MedStar Institute for Innovation

This research has been funded by a grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Dr. Hettinger has previously investigated aspects of improving the use of health IT in the clinical environment through smaller grants. “This has been evolving over the last 5 to 7 years,” said Dr. Hettinger, “building a team that has focused on the development of a process of event reviews to understand system-based issues and contributing factors.”

This interdisciplinary research builds on previous research on algorithms used to identify medical errors and interventions to combat these errors. What separates this research is that it is intended to specifically look at why errors occur within EHR systems at the time of the event and to create solutions through human factors engineering.

“This research was made possible by the support system that the MedStar Health Research Institute has for investigators. At another institution, it could take more than 8 months to submit a grant application,” said Dr. Hettinger. “The tightly integrated infrastructure of MHRI, the MedStar Institute for Innovation and MedStar Health supports the work of investigators to focus on the science of the research. Having MHRI associates integrated into our team allows us to build close working relationships in order to take advantage of new opportunities and activate research quickly.”

The MRHI grant submission team for this research included Angela Thomas, JoAnnette Perez Chacon, and Sarah Wright-Gaul. The MHRI IRB team included James Foreman and Crystal Bland. Christina Stanger and Akhila Iyer provided additional support for the submission.