The Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) has begun plans to develop its health IT safety center, awarding a contract to RTI International, a Research Triangle Park, N.C. nonprofit research organization, to create a road map of the project.
RTI says it will define the focus, functions, governance and value of the national health IT safety center. To form the road map, the nonprofit says it will use public-private stakeholder input including safety researchers, patient advocates, providers, health IT vendors, medical liability and health insurers, government officials, and others.
When the health IT safety center was first mentioned, as part of the ONC, Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and Food and Drug Administration (FDA)'s strategy and recommendations for a health information technology (health IT) framework (FDASIA), the idea of bringing together public and private stakeholders was a significant component.
"Health IT is creating novel opportunities for patients and providers, while also raising new and important safety concerns," Doug Johnston, director of health IT policy in RTI's Center for the Advancement of Health Information Technology, and the project director, said in a statement. "As a first step, the road map will define a path for creating a new center that helps gather information and share learning about the safety and safe use of health IT."
The health IT safety center and ONC's role in regulating products as part of it came into question a few months back. Four Republican Congressmen on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce sent a letter to Karen DeSalvo, M.D., the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, questioning the ONC's overall regulatory authority as part of the safety center. DeSalvo responding by saying the safety center would not be regulating but rather facilitating the creation of a health IT learning system. One of the Congressmen who wrote the original letter to DeSalvo, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), expressed disappointment in the response.