ONC taps RTI to develop road map for HIT Safety Center

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT on Wednesday awarded a contract to Research Triangle Park, North Carolina-based RTI International to design a roadmap to its health IT safety center.

The focus of the safety center, an idea initially proposed by the Institute of Medicine in a report published in November 2011, will be the collection of benchmark data on health IT-related adverse events in an effort to improve patient safety. The Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act report, released jointly in April by ONC, FDA and the Federal Communications Commission, included a recommendation to create the safety center, for which $5 million was allocated in ONC's 2015 proposed budget.

As part of the contract, an ONC spokesperson told FierceHealthIT, RTI will create a task force of stakeholders to get input on a road map; the agency anticipates the road map will be ready by April 2015. Additionally, RTI will be charged with presenting 10 education programs on health IT safety based on research and programs that stakeholders may already be conducting.

The contract does not task RTI with creating the safety center itself.

"RTI will also prepare a report summarizing the evidence on health IT safety since the IOM report was issued in 2011," the spokesperson said. "The report will also evaluate any available interventions and tools that would optimize the safety and safe use of health IT."

The stakeholders, according to an RTI announcement, will include safety researchers, patient advocates, providers, vendors, medical liability and health insurers and government officials, among others.

"Health IT is creating novel opportunities for patients and providers, while also raising new and important safety concerns," Doug Johnston, director of health IT policy for RTI's Center for the Advancement of Health Information Technology, said in a statement. Johnson will serve as the project's director.

Lawmakers--in particular, four members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee--in June expressed concern about ONC's plans to "regulate software and other health IT products" via the safety center.

"It is not clear to us under what statutory authority ONC is now pursuing these enhanced regulatory activities, including the levying of new user fees on health IT," Republican Reps. Fred Upton (Mich.), Joseph Pitts (Pa.), Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.) and Greg Walden (Ore.) said in a letter to National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo.

To learn more:
- here's the RTI announcement