4 goals of the federal Health IT Safety Center

Goals for the new federal health Information technology safety center, an idea initially proposed by the Institute of Medicine in a report published in November 2011, are outlined in a new article published this week the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

While its functions are still being defined, the safety center is envisioned as a public-private entity working with key administrative and policy stakeholders, healthcare organizations and HIT vendors.

The center's four goals, according to the paper, include

1. To create a nationwide HIT-related patient safety surveillance system to monitor HIT-related patient safety events, including events that lead to patient harm and 'near misses.'

One of the ways its could do that is to partner with not-for-profit entities, such as ECRI, to create a federally funded research and development center for event reporting, analysis, and information sharing, similar to the Veterans Affairs' Informatics Patient Safety office's case-tracking database.

The paper proposes using the Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality common format for five types of HIT-related concerns:

  • Technology that fails to work or does not work as it was designed to
  • Technology that works as it was designed, but does not meet user needs or expectations
  • HIT that is well designed and working correctly, but was not configured or used as system designers intended
  • HIT that is working as designed and used as it was designed, but interacts with external systems in ways so that data are lost or incorrectly transmitted or displayed
  • Specific HIT safety features or functions were not implemented or not available

2. To develop the methods and governance structure to support the investigation of major HIT-related safety events

3. To create the infrastructure and methods needed to carry out random assessments of large, complex, HIT enabled healthcare organizations

It advocates for random, preferably unannounced, on-site assessments of complex organizations by an independent entity, though those could be part of other assessments, such as those by the Joint Commission, as part of their accreditation process site visits.

4. Advocate for HIT safety with various government departments and entities such as provider organizations and vendors. It might have to, for instance, help vendors understand why certain safety-critical mandates were enacted and perhaps suggest potential technical solutions to address them.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT earlier this month awarded a contract to Research Triangle Park, North Carolina-based RTI International to design a roadmap for the health IT safety center, which is due by April 2015.

The Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act report, released jointly in April by ONC, FDA and the Federal Communications Commission, included a recommendation to create the safety center, for which $5 million was allocated in ONC's 2015 proposed budget.

To learn more:
- find the abstract