Leapfrog Group CEO: HIT funds should go toward ensuring systems are safe

Technology is meant to make work at hospitals easier and improve patient care, but often installing new systems can go awry and many health administrators lack experience with the new tools, according to Leah Binder, president and CEO of the nonprofit Leapfrog Group.

Administrators make rookie mistakes, and when things go wrong they panic, Binder writes at the Wall Street Journal. In addition, they look to technology to solve all issues, be they human or managerial.

"This management problem is very serious, at the roots of widespread dissatisfaction ... from physicians, nurses and other clinicians who are not happy when their hospitals convert to digital solutions," she says.

Leapfrog Group offers a test for hospitals to see if their systems for processing medication orders work correctly. However, Binder says her organization finds that medication orders made in IT systems often don't alert to errors, and 1 in 6 of the orders that could kill a patient don't get stopped by the system.

Little of the money flowing into health IT is meant for hospitals to ensure and prove their new systems are safe, she writes.

"Perhaps that sounds boring compared with the wiz-bang breakthroughs promoted in the booming IT marketplace. But for us humble patients, good stewardship of the technology is about as mundane as life and death," Binder says.

In 2010, Leapfrog called for federal oversight of computerized physician order (CPOE) systems. Two years later, the nonprofit said there had been a major improvement in the ability of CPOE systems to detect medication errors.

However, nearly 80 percent of erroneous medication orders could be entered in CPOE systems, and more than half "sailed right through," with little or no difficulty or warnings, according to research published at BMJ Quality & Safety this January.

To learn more:
- read the WSJ article