Texas Medical Association slams ONC safety plan

The health IT safety action plan proposed by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT in December is not specific enough to succeed, according to recent comments made by the Texas Medical Association. In its letter to National Coordinator for Health IT Farzad Mostashari, TMA said that responsibility for the plan "lacks focus," and should be overseen by a "highly visible HIT Safety Czar."

TMA also called setting mandatory deadlines and developing a "robust" reporting and learning system imperative to the success of the plan, saying that the plan's current reliance on voluntary reporting and funding represents a "fundamental weakness."

"TMA believes that significant patient safety risks exist now, and new ones will emerge in the next one to two years as many [electronic health record] and other HIT vendors merge or go out of business," the letter said.

Additionally, the group expressed doubts about a code of conduct proposed to keep vendors in line as far as ensuring cooperation with safety organizations for adverse event reporting. "TMA is concerned that this will not materially affect industry accountability and generate the changes that are needed," the letter said. "For example, what if a developer does not comply with said code of conduct? There is no penalty or impetus for change."

The American Medical Association was a bit less harsh in its assessment of ONC's plan. It supports most of the ideas outlined in the plan, although it called for more research to be done on the impact of electronic health record use regarding patient safety in the ambulatory setting.

"Physicians are concerned about potential liabilities from EHR system design and software flaws, as well as lack of interoperability among EHR systems that could result in incomplete or missing information, which may lead to errors in patient diagnosis and treatment," the AMA letter said. "In addition, the impact that EHRs have on physician practice workflows can lead to unintended consequences. Those impacts are the result of how the software is developed."

HIMSS said in its letter to Mostashari that it wants to see more provider-vendor cooperation when it comes to investigation of patient safety events, as well as usability, while the AHA said in its letter that its stakeholders would like to see more of a focus on a single, national approach to matching patients with their records with a goal of patient safety.

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, meanwhile, said that the plan needs to be facilitated by stakeholders not directly under government control.

To learn more:
- here's the TMA letter (.pdf)
- read the AMA letter (.pdf)