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Institute of Medicine will study best policies and practices for improving health care safety with health information technology

Posted Sep 28 2010 10:01pm

            The Institute of Medicine (IOM) will conduct a 1-year study aimed at ensuring that health information technology (HIT) will achieve its full potential for improving patient safety in health care.  The study will be carried out under a $989,000 contract announced today by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), which is charged with coordinating federal efforts regarding HIT adoption and meaningful use.

            “Since 1999, when the IOM published its ground-breaking study To Err Is Human, the Institute has been a leader in the movement to improve patient safety,” said David Blumenthal, M.D., national coordinator for health information technology.  “This study will draw on IOM’s depth of knowledge in this area to help all of us ensure that HIT reaches the goals we are seeking for patient safety improvement.”

            The study will examine a comprehensive range of patient safety-related issues, including prevention of HIT-related errors and rapid reporting of any HIT-related patient safety issues.  It will make recommendations concerning the potential effects of government policies and private sector actions in maximizing patient safety and avoiding medical errors through HIT.  Highlights of the study will include:

  • Summary of existing knowledge of the effects of HIT on patient safety;
  • Identifying approaches to promote the safety-enhancing features of HIT while protecting patients from any safety problems associated with HIT;
  • Identifying approaches for preventing HIT-related patient safety problems before they occur;
  • Identifying approaches for surveillance and reporting activities to bring about rapid detection and correction of patient safety problems;
  • Addressing the potential roles of private sector entities such as accrediting and certification bodies as well as patient safety organizations and professional and trade associations; and
  • Discussion of existing authorities and potential roles for key federal agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

            “The IOM is pleased to have the opportunity to add its expertise and convening power in helping to achieve the goals of improved safety through HIT-assisted care,” said IOM President Harvey Fineberg, M.D.

            Donald Berwick, M.D., CMS administrator and a national leader on patient safety, said, “Improving patient safety in health care depends on thoroughness in planning and execution, to find problems systematically and correct them decisively.  We have high expectations for patient safety improvement through HIT, but achieving those goals will require the same careful and vigorous approach that is needed to improve safety in any enterprise.  The IOM can help us identify a productive path to better patient safety with the help of HIT.” 

            Substantial funding under the Health Information Technology Economic and Clinical Health Act, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, will support the adoption and meaningful use of HIT, especially through incentives for the adoption and meaningful use of certified electronic health records. In July, CMS announced regulations outlining the initial requirements that eligible health care providers must meet to demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHR technology for the Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments program, which CMS will administer.  Also in July, ONC announced regulations completing the adoption of an initial set of standards, implementation specifications and certification criteria to enable the testing and certification of EHR technology for meaningful use Stage 1.  Earlier this month, ONC named initial testing and certifying bodies.

            More information about HIT and support for adoption and meaningful use can be found on the web at healthit.hhs.gov .

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