Patient Photos Displayed in EHRs Can Enhance Patient Safety

A study published by JAMA Network Open reports that inclusion of patient photographs in electronic health records (EHRs) can enhance patient safety. In a cohort study analyzing 2,558,746 orders placed for 71,851 patients, a photo displayed in the banner of an EHR significantly reduced wrong-patient order entry errors (WPOE). WPOEs, according to Brigham and Women’s Hospital researchers, “have a high potential for harm” and are particularly problematic “wherever workflows are complex and multitasking and interruptions are common,” like emergency rooms.

As part of the ongoing effort to improve patient safety, the authors advocate the initiative be widely adopted and include the following:

  • staff education on the importance of the program;
  • poster placement in waiting areas explaining the program and inviting patient participation;
  • equipment purchases that ensure quality photographs; and
  • facilitation of a systemwide photograph capture process.

Additionally, they explain the practice is not only cost efficient but imposes no additional burden on physicians. Alternative solutions, such as electronic patient verification forms or alerts, have proved useful but are interruptive, time-consuming and cause alert fatigue.

Lead author Hojjat Salmasian says photographs are effective because, as a provider, you know the patients “personally—you’ve cared for them and you’re going to quickly recognize that face.” He also notes this is an important step for engaging patients “in the care they receive,” which ultimately improves the overall safety and quality of a healthcare organization.

MLMIC offers a number of resources that can help policyholders implement effective patient safety improvement strategies:

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