Bipartisan Policy Center proposes health IT safety framework

Developers, implementers and users must share responsibility for safety in clinical software and other health information technologies, according to a report from the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC).

The center proposed an oversight framework for health IT to improve patient safety, noting that it should:

  • Recognize the role that health IT plays in improving the quality, safety and cost-effectiveness of care
  • Assure that patient safety is a responsibility shared by the entire healthcare system
  • Be risk-based, flexible and not stifle innovation
  • Emphasize the use of existing safety and quality-related processes, systems and standards
  • Create a non-punitive environment for reporting of patient safety events

The report notes that privacy regulations have kept developers out of the loop when they might have key insights into the problems. Developers must be part of the solution, it says.

It cites the need to create standards and guidelines to ensure patient safety in the development, implementation, and use of health IT and the dissemination of best practices through education, training and technical assistance. Barriers to reporting must be removed, it says. And aggregation and analysis of data also is vital to enable learning from safety events.

And contrary to an Institute of Medicine report from November 2011, which called for a new federal agency to oversee health IT safety, it backs patient safety efforts underway through the government and the private sector through the patient safety organizations (PSOs) authorized by the federal government.

"Creating a safety reporting silo that only focuses on health IT would be duplicative, increase unnecessary burden, and also result in the failure to capture many relevant events. Patient safety events associated with health IT are often not identified as such until analysis has been performed by the PSO," it states.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services in December announced a draft plan to establish a health IT safety program within the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, but that plan did not include a new oversight agency.

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) responded that the ONC seems to have overstated its role--that safety oversight should be facilitated by stakeholders, not placed in the hands of government.

Meanwhile, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, while supporting the ONC plan generally, said it wants to see more provider-vendor cooperation in the investigation of patient safety events, as well as usability. The American Hospital Association also called for a single, national approach to matching patients with their records.

To learn more:
- read the report


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