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Mostashari: 'We Will Act on IOM Report'

November 9, 2011
by David Raths
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ONC head acknowledges need for HIT patient safety framework

Speaking at the Nov. 9 Health IT Policy Committee meeting, Farzad Mostashari, M.D., head of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, praised the just-released Institute of Medicine (IOM) report calling for greater oversight of health information technology as it relates to patient safety.

The report asks the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to publish a plan within 12 months to minimize patient safety risks associated with health IT and report annually on the progress being made.
Mostashari said work is already under way on such a plan and he expects it to be published much sooner than a year from now.

“We will work closely with other federal partners, including AHRQ [the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality], NIST [the National Institute of Standards and Technology] and the FDA [Food & Drug Administration] to craft a surveillance and action plan,” he said.

With the report the IOM reaffirmed its faith in health IT’s potential to make care safer, he added, and it has made important recommendations to ensure that its potential is fully realized. “They certainly made the important point that of course EHR systems needs to perform reliably, but that safety is not about a gadget or product performance. It is a system.” To successfully use health IT, he added, we have to take a systemic approach, and deal with usability issues and the relationship between the design of EHRs and workflows.

“The report focuses on one issue that has been critical,” Mostashari said: How do we gather information about the reporting of safety events when they occur? He said he appreciates the recommendations about creating a coherent structure for reporting on those issues. “This is a significant help in motivating us to do more to make sure health IT improves health quality and safety.”

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