Groups warn of safety threat when health IT 'rights' go wrong

We've all heard the "rights" that define successful use of health IT: Getting the right information to the right person at the right time. But when one of those rights is wrong, it can put patients in danger, warns the Society of Hospital Medicine.

Despite CMS' "celebratory declarations" that 2012 is the year of Meaningful Use, experts are concerned that the use of HIT "falls short of its promise--and might even endanger patients--due to shortcomings in system interoperability, safety, accountability, and other issues," according to an article in the society's The Hospitalist.

Federal HIT incentives are "a step in the right direction," says Kendall M. Rogers, M.D., chair of the society's IT executive committee and chief of hospital medicine at the University of (Albuquerque) New Mexico Health Sciences Center School of Medicine. "We want systems that help us make better clinical decisions and allow us to work more efficiently. Unfortunately, many hospitalists are frustrated with existing HIT systems, knowing how much better they need to be. It can be a dangerous gamble to push rapid adoption of potentially unsafe systems in hospitals," he tells the publication.

In an email to society members, the organization said it supports the Institute of Medicine's recommendations to improve the safety and functionality of health IT systems, including:

  • Removing contractual restrictions, promoting public reporting of safety issues, and putting a system in place for independent investigations that drive patient-safety improvement.
  • Establishing a standards and a common infrastructure for interoperable data exchange across systems.
  • Making both vendors and providers accountable for safety concerns that might require changes in an IT product's functionality or design.

Other groups have also raised concerns about the Meaningful Use program, of course, though their concerns lie mainly with easing the burdens of compliance on physicians and providers. For example, the Medical Group Management Association recently said the Meaningful Use program still doesn't align adequately with rules on electronic prescribing and other reporting programs.

Other groups, such as the American Hospital Association have expressed concern about providers' ability to meet requirements of programs such as electronic prescribing, warning that the rule makes the path to EHRs "more challenging," as FierceEMR reported last week.  

To be effective and to improve quality, data must to be meaningful to both the patient and the clinician, Atul Gawande, M.D., said in an interview last week. "It needs to be able to connect the abstract world of data to the physical world of what really happens, which means it has to be timely data."

To learn more:
- read The Hospitalist article

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