HHS issues health IT safety action plan

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, prodded by Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) has finally addressed recommendations from an Institute of Medicine report, issued in November 2011. The IOM report cited an "urgent need" for a research agenda for safety issues related to electronic medical records technology and urged that such a plan be in place within 12 months.

Ellmers, a registered nurse who is chair of the House Small Business Committee's Subcommittee on Healthcare and Technology, asked for an update in July, then sent a letter in November pressing for an explanation about why she had not heard back.

The IOM report proposed that a new agency be set up to monitor health IT-related safety issues, rather than have the U.S. Food and Drug Administration do it. In its new proposal, HHS said it would establish an ONC (Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT) Safety Program to implement its safety plan, though it does not mention a new agency. It says it will work together with other federal partners including the FDA.

Among the aspects of its proposal:

  • Make it easier for clinicians to report patient safety events and risks from using EHRs.
  • Engage with developers to embrace their shared responsibility for safety.
  • Collect and analyze data on patient safety events.  
  • Incorporate safety into certification for heath IT products.
  • Incorporate health IT safety into training for all health care providers.
  • Investigate and take corrective action when necessary.

The report addresses the IOM recommendations individually, pointing, for instance, to Hazard Manager, a software tool developed to alert users to potential health IT-related problems as among the tools and interventions its supports.

Public comments on the plan will be accepted through Feb. 4.

Experts from two Texas medical schools are proposing a framework for protecting patient safety when using electronic health records. They suggest using the framework in three phases tailored to the phases of EHR implementation and related Meaningful Use requirements,

To learn more:
- read the report


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