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HHS Health IT Safety Plan Released, Open for Public Comment

December 26, 2012
by Rajiv Leventhal
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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released the Health IT Patient Safety Action and Surveillance Plan, which builds on the Department’s overall commitment to patient safety. Health information technology can eliminate medical errors, improve the quality of care, protect patients and make the health care system more efficient.

The plan is open for public comment through Feb. 4, 2013 and addresses recommendations made in the 2011 Institute of Medicine (IOM) Report, Health IT and Patient Safety: Building Safer Systems for Better Care. “This report will help all of us better use health IT to deliver high quality care and improve patient safety,” National Coordinator for Health IT Farzad Mostashari, M.D. said in a statement.

The proper steps to improve the safety of health IT can only be taken if there is better information regarding health IT’s risks, harms and impact on patient safety. The plan aims to improve knowledge on the types, frequency and severity of health IT-related patient safety events. It also aims to use health IT as a tool to facilitate the reporting of patient safety events in general.

The plan outlines several steps that are designed to: establish mechanisms that facilitate reporting among users and developers; assist Patients Safety Organizations (PSOs), ONC- Authorized Certification Bodies (ONC-ACBs) and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) surveyors in identifying and addressing health IT-related safety issues; and aggregate and analyze data on health IT-related safety events.

Clinicians who report adverse events provide necessary data for developers, providers, researchers and policymakers to improve the safety of health IT and make care safer. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) will propose using electronic health record certification criteria to make it easier for clinicians to report patient safety events. Working with ONC, the CMS will align its health and safety standards and guidance for providers and suppliers. CMS will also develop training for surveyors that enhances their ability to identify safe and unsafe practices associated with health IT.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s (AHRQ) Common Formats will give providers common definitions and reporting formats to improve how they gather, review and report adverse event data. AHRQ will also encourage reporting to PSOs and increase health care provider adoption of the formats.

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