HHS Releases Health IT Safety Plan - InformationWeek

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7/10/2013
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HHS Releases Health IT Safety Plan

Public/private partnerships should make it easier to report health IT-related adverse events and correct potential patient safety concerns.

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When used incorrectly, healthcare technology can have detrimental effects on patient care. Medications can be distributed incorrectly. Follow-up care can be cut short. Patient data can be mismatched. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) issued a health IT safety plan last week to address this and the role of health IT in patient safety.

The Health IT Patient Safety Action and Surveillance Plan is intended to improve the existing health IT structure by using public/private partnerships to educate clinicians and healthcare professionals and put resources into the creation of a more robust and uniform health IT system.

The plan is ONC's response to a 2011 report they commissioned on health IT from the Institute of Medicine, ONC spokesman Peter Ashkenaz said in an email.

To increase knowledge about health IT, ONC will use data collected by patient safety organizations, in addition to current programs already collecting data through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). ONC will also aggregate data from the Food and Drug Administration's Manufacturer and User Facility Device Experience database.

[ Health IT can deliver unexpected lessons. See Digital Business Requires Dose Of Humility. ]

ONC has contracted the Joint Commission to target resources and corrective actions to improve safety.

"The Joint Commission contract will also help to identify ways to improve safety and the safe use of health IT even as we analyze other HHS patient safety programs, like the Partnership for Patients, to identify key opportunities to use health IT to mitigate patient harm," Ashkenaz said.

If successful, the plan will make it easier for clinicians to report health IT-related incidents and hazards through the use of certified electronic health record (EHR) technology. It will also increase the focus on health IT in the analysis of providers' adverse events reports. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality will encourage reporting data to patient safety organizations and will update its standardized reporting forms to enable ambulatory reporting of health IT events.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has a key role in the plan as well. CMS will encourage the use of standardized reporting forms in hospital incident reporting systems and will train surveyors to identify safe and unsafe health IT practices.

"ONC already has a number of relationships with federal and private stakeholders underway and these will be strengthened as contracting obligations permit," Ashkenaz said. "A key outcome of this public-private process will be to reach a common understanding of priorities and measures."

The plan has been well-received across the healthcare IT industry.

"There's never been a program in the industry to evaluate whether there are errors caused by the EHR because of bad interface design or non-intuitive screen design, etc.," said John Halamka, CIO at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. "ONC is creating the opportunity for patient safety organizations to gather information and transparently discuss it to ensure the safety of products over time."

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