The Institute of Medicine will undertake a year-long study of how best to fulfill one of the great promises of health information technology: improving patient safety.
The Office of the National Coordinator has awarded almost $1 million to underwrite completion of the Institute's inquiry, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services announced.
The study acknowledges the dual-edge nature of electronic health records, which have the potential to eliminate medical errors resulting from the use of paper records, including difficulties in accessing, reading and consolidating them. EHRs can overcome many of those shortcomings, but health-care providers have learned electronic records are no panacea. Poorly designed or implemented systems, in fact, can create as many problems as they solve.
The study is to cover a broad range of issues, including:
Identifying approaches to promote the safety-enhancing features of [health information technology] while protecting patients from any safety problems associated with HIT ... [and] identifying approaches for preventing HIT-related patient safety problems before they occur.
In 1999, the Institute published a ground-breaking study, To Err Is Human, that focused attention on the prevalence of preventable medical errors resulting in tragic consequences, including the deaths of an estimated 44,000 to 98,000 people.
"This study will draw on IOM's depth of knowledge in this area to help all of us ensure that HIT reaches the goals we are seeking for patient safety improvement," said Dr. David Blumenthal, national coordinator for health information technology.