HHS finalizes health IT safety plan

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has released a final health IT safety plan to eliminate medical errors related to technology and better protect patients.

The plan further builds on recommendations from a 2011 Institute of Medicine report and from public comments, based on proposals released in December, according to an announcement.

It calls for shared responsibility within HHS and for significant participation from the private sector. Its planned actions fall into three categories, including:

  • Learn: To make it easier for clinicians to report patient safety events and risks from using EHRs; to collect and analyze data on patient safety events; to incorporate health IT safety in post-market surveillance of EHRs.
  • Improve: To use Meaningful Use and the National Quality Strategy to establish and advance health IT patient safety priorities; to incorporate safety into certification criteria for health IT products; to investigate and take corrective action as necessary.
  • Lead: To encourage private-sector leadership and shared responsibility for health IT patient safety; to develop a strategy and recommendations for an appropriate, risk-based regulatory framework for health IT; and to establish an ONC Safety Program to coordinate implementation of the Health IT Safety Plan.

The IOM report called for the creation of a new federal agency to monitor health IT-related safety issues, rather than leaving such a task up to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. So far, coordination between HHS, the FDA and other federal agencies is proving problematic, according to FierceMobileHealthcare's Greg Slabodkin.

EHRs, in particular, pose the potential to create their own "reality" that may or may not exist, according to research published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association. The researchers, from Dartmouth College and the University of Pennsylvania, compiled 45 scenarios of miscommunication related to healthcare IT systems.

Despite all the good that they do, EHRs also bring about "unintended consequences" of errors that can affect patient safety in the emergency department, the American College of Emergency Physicians has warned.

To learn more:
- find the plan (.pdf)
- here's the announcement