Giving Health IT a Hard Look

More robust oversight of health IT and better reporting of errors are needed to ensure patient safety as the country's health care providers adopt electronic health records, concluded a <a href="http://www.scribd.com/doc/30235775/Health-IT-Policy-Panel-s-Draft-Letter-on-Patient-Safety-Recommendations#about">draft report</a>, released today, of an Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology policy workgroup.

More robust oversight of health IT and better reporting of errors are needed to ensure patient safety as the country's health care providers adopt electronic health records, concluded a draft report, released today, of an Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology policy workgroup.

The Adoption-Certification Workgroup of the HIT Policy Committee advised nurturing a "culture of improvement," including transparent oversight and an information system similar to a patient safety organization. The group warned, however, that such a measure, while necessary, "might not represent a complete response to all HIT patient safety concerns."

The workgroup also advised incorporating into electronic health records a "feedback button" that would allow users "to immediately report any problems/concerns with information that appears on screens."

The report acknowledges criticism of the Food and Drug Administration's oversight of health IT products. The FDA's focus on individual devices is inadequate "because HIT is embedded in a sociotechnical system that includes a complex mix of people, technology, work processes and factors outside the organization that influence it."

Despite documented failures of electronic health records, some of which have resulted in injury and death, the workgroup found that "the biggest risk to patient safety would be to either avoid or delay the proper implementation of EHR and CPOE systems."

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