AHRQ to fund new research on health IT safety

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality is ramping up its research on the safe use of electronic health records and health IT, issuing two special emphasis notices of funding opportunities for interested researchers.

The funding opportunities encompass several different types of research projects. One addresses consumers' personal health management needs and health IT design principles; another focuses on how health IT improves healthcare quality, with an emphasis on design, implementation, use, impact on outcomes and measurement.  

The money available to fund such research varies depending on the project and its length, but could amount to several hundred thousand dollars. AHRQ intends to use some of its $4 million appropriation for health IT on "high impact" patient safety risks after EHR deployment, according to a Bloomberg BNA blog post.

AHRQ hopes that the projects will generate new evidence on safe health IT practices that could be used by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and others.

"The use of health IT has been demonstrated to improve healthcare quality. ... Use of health IT has also been associated with improvement in patient safety by reducing errors, as well as improved cost-effectiveness," AHRQ says in an announcement. "However, there are still gaps in the health IT evidence base as these findings cannot be generalized to all types of heath IT applications or systems, all care settings, all user groups, or all care processes."

EHR-related patient safety issues have long been recognized as an "unintended consequence" of EHR use. HHS issued a health IT safety action plan in 2013 to attempt to resolve some of these issues, and ONC has released a set of guides to help providers improve patient safety when using the systems.

To learn more:
- read the announcement
- here's the blog post