Study Aims to Improve HIT-related Patient Safety

The Institute of Medicine (IOM), the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, will conduct a one-year consensus study aimed at ensuring that health information technology (HIT) achieves its full potential for improving patient safety in health care. The study will be carried out under a $989,000 contract awarded by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The study will examine a 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:

  • Summarizing 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, 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).

Donald Berwick, MD, CMS administrator, 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.”

Read the Sept. 29 HHS press release in full.

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