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Four Things Leaders Must Know to Supercharge Their EHR Systems with the SAFER Guides

Jun 27, 2023

In June 2023, I joined various health care industry leaders to discuss the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) EHR SAFER Guidelines and how organizations are using them to improve both patient safety and business effectiveness. 

During the hour-long fireside chat, as part of the Scottsdale Institute’s Webinar Series, myself; co-author of the CMS SAFER guides, Dean Sittig; and representatives from member organizations, Dr. Peter Kleinschmidt and Dr. Jorge Sanchez, explored how a deep focus on the SAFER Guide concepts, values and recommendations can advance operational and cultural safety competencies.   

Here are four main takeaways from that session:  

1.  Eligible Hospitals Cannot Count on Their EHR Vendor to Perform Their Assessment(s) 

The CMS requires that every organization attest to the completion of the SAFER Guides for each CCN/TIN associated with their system. Additionally, while your EHR vendor can offer support as it pertains to the actual system and its configurations, it is ultimately up to the health system to attest to the completion of the guides. 

Because some organizations will need to complete multiple assessments to account for each of their entities, it’s imperative to allot ample time to the effort with a multi-disciplinary collaborative approach to the attestation. 

For eligible entities that are using the same EHR instance within an organization, facilitate the assessment of the SAFER Guides via a platform that offers templates and easier ways to copy information relevant to the multiple entities. 

2.  The SAFER Guides Incorporate All Aspects of the EHR Ecosystem 

The SAFER Guides include a comprehensive assessment of 165 recommended practices, which health systems must account for and attest to. Because these practices cover a wide array of systems and areas within each system, a successful and timely assessment requires a multi-disciplinary team from clinical, risk, patient safety, quality, regulatory, information technology and others.  

While the full scope of the guides may seem intimidating for those completing them for their first attestation, including a full team of voices from across the health care system can help identify key growth areas for operational effectiveness and reduce vulnerabilities for patient harm and med-mal losses. 

3.  Organization and Governance Are Key 

When conducting your SAFER Guides Assessment, or any large-scale audit or exam for that matter, documentation, planning and governance are keys to a successful rollout. During the webinar, two health care leaders shared their experiences while conducting the SAFER Guides self-assessments for this year. One mentioned using a spreadsheet to document assignments, status updates and assessment progress; the other leveraged an online platform to do so. When capturing assessment results that are not yet fully implemented, the pair emphasized using a platform to assist in identifying specific remediations leading to a roadmap for planning and budgeting improvements. This helps with developing leadership dashboards for prioritization, accountability and resource management. 

4.  The SAFER Guides Attestation Takes a Whole Village 

The largest takeaway for health centers attesting to the SAFER Guides is having the right voices, perspectives and leaders in the room. The effort to coordinate and govern the organizational assessment of the SAFER Guides takes time and resources, but when coordinated and communicated effectively, it can deliver many strategic and operational benefits. 

Scottsdale Institute members can view the on-demand webinar online here: View Session Recording. 

Is your organization ready to attest to the SAFER Guides?

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Arvind P. Kumar

Arvind Kumar is Managing Director in the Health Care Services Group and Head of Digital Health Services within the firm.

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