House Small Business Subcommittee on Healthcare and Technology Chairwoman Renee Ellmers, (R-NC) recently sent a letter to Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), asking her to thoroughly address health IT safety concerns. Ellmers, a registered nurse and healthcare professional before her time in congress, was specifically inquiring about whether HHS had adopted the recent recommendations from the Institute of Medicine for improving the safety of health IT.
The IOM report called for several steps to be taken by HHS, specifically a plan of action within 12 months, as well as greater oversight by the public and private sectors. According to Ellmers, the report further recommended that the plan should include a schedule for working with the private sector to assess the impact of health IT on patient safety, and recommended several other steps to help improve the safety of health IT.
Ellmers says she “has requested a copy of the Sebelius’ plan to minimize patient safety risks, a description of health IT-related errors that have resulted in patient risks, injuries and deaths, and the status of the development of a mechanism for health IT vendors and users to report health IT-related deaths.”
In the past, Ellmers has focused on this issue. In an Aug.11, 2011 letter to Sebelius, Ellmers said that a modern, well-equipped office is critical to the practice of medicine, and asked her to undertake a study of health IT’s adoption, benefits and cost effectiveness, including medical error rates. In June of that year, Ellmers held a hearing on the barriers to health IT.