HHS issues final health IT safety plan
A plan to guide health information technology (IT) activities across the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to eliminate medical errors, protect patients, and improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare was issued recently by HHS.
The final "Health IT Patient Safety Action and Surveillance Plan" addresses the role of health IT within HHS’ commitment to patient safety. The plan builds on recommendations from the 2011 Institute of Medicine report, titled "Health IT and Patient Safety: Building Safer Systems for Better Care," and from public comments. (The plan is available online at http://tinyurl.com/hhsITplan.)
"When implemented and used properly, health IT is an important tool in finding and avoiding medical errors and protecting patients," says Farzad Mostashari, MD, national coordinator for health IT. "This plan will help us make sure that these new technologies are used to make healthcare safer."
The plan, implemented by the Office of National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), outlines the responsibilities to be shared across HHS and details significant participation from the private sector. The plan will facilitate these improvements:
- ONC will make it easier for clinicians to report health IT-related incidents and hazards through the use of certified electronic health record technology (CEHRT).
- The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality will encourage reporting to Patient Safety Organizations and will update its standardized reporting forms to enable ambulatory reporting of health IT events.
- The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will encourage the use of the standardized reporting forms in hospital incident reporting systems and train surveyors to identify safe and unsafe practices associated with health IT.
- Working through a public-private process, ONC will develop priorities for improving the safety of health IT. ONC and CMS will consider adopting safety-related objectives, measures, and capabilities for CEHRTs through the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs and ONC’s standards and certification criteria.
To accompany the plan’s surveillance of safety-related capabilities in CEHRT, ONC issued guidance clarifying that ONC-Authorized Certification Bodies will be expected to verify whether safety-related capabilities work properly in live clinical settings in which they are implemented.
In addition to the plan, Mostashari announced ONC has contracted with The Joint Commission (TJC) to better detect and proactively address potential health IT-related safety issues across a variety of health care settings. TJC will expand its capacity to investigate the role of health IT as a contributing cause of adverse events and will identify high priority areas for expected types of health IT-related events.