• Article

Advancing perinatal patient safety through application of safety science principles using health IT

BACKGROUND: The use of health information technology (IT) has been shown to promote patient safety in Labor and Delivery (L&D) units. The use of health IT to apply safety science principles (e.g., standardization) to L&D unit processes may further advance perinatal safety.

METHODS: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with L&D units participating in the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's (AHRQ's) Safety Program for Perinatal Care (SPPC) to assess units' experience with program implementation. Analysis of interview transcripts was used to characterize the process and experience of using health IT for applying safety science principles to L&D unit processes.

RESULTS: Forty-six L&D units from 10 states completed participation in SPPC program implementation; thirty-two (70%) reported the use of health IT as an enabling strategy for their local implementation. Health IT was used to improve standardization of processes, use of independent checks, and to facilitate learning from defects. L&D units standardized care processes through use of electronic health record (EHR)-based order sets and use of smart pumps and other technology to improve medication safety. Units also standardized EHR documentation, particularly related to electronic fetal monitoring (EFM) and shoulder dystocia. Cognitive aids and tools were integrated into EHR and care workflows to create independent checks such as checklists, risk assessments, and communication handoff tools. Units also used data from EHRs to monitor processes of care to learn from defects. Units experienced several challenges incorporating health IT, including obtaining organization approval, working with their busy IT departments, and retrieving standardized data from health IT systems.

CONCLUSIONS: Use of health IT played an integral part in the planning and implementation of SPPC for participating L&D units. Use of health IT is an encouraging approach for incorporating safety science principles into care to improve perinatal safety and should be incorporated into materials to facilitate the implementation of perinatal safety initiatives.


Webb, J., Sorensen, A., Sommerness, S., Lasater, B., Mistry, K., & Kahwati, L. (2017). Advancing perinatal patient safety through application of safety science principles using health IT. BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making, 17(1), [176]. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12911-017-0572-8

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