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Institute of Medicine recommends HIT oversight, accountability

November 11, 2011
by root
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A new report suggests the Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) should impose more oversight of health information technology (HIT) vendors.

The Institute of Medicine’s report suggests Americans need to be protected from potential medical errors associated with the use of HIT in patient care. The report examines a broad range of HITs, including electronic health records, secure patient portals and health information exchanges.

While some of these technologies have significantly improved the quality of healthcare and reduced medical errors, concerns about potential harm are emerging as healthcare providers increasingly rely on HIT to deliver care. The report states that serious errors involving these technologies—including medication dosing errors, failure to detect fatal illnesses and treatment delays due to poor human-computer interactions or loss of data—have led to several reported patient deaths and injuries.

The report recommends that HHS establish a mechanism for both technology vendors and users to report HIT-related deaths, injuries or unsafe conditions. Reporting events related to patient safety should be mandatory for vendors and voluntary, confidential, and nonpunitive for care providers. The report also recommends a new Health IT Safety Council should be funded by HHS to evaluate criteria and develop methods for assessing and monitoring safety and measuring impacts of health IT on safety. The agency should also ensure that HIT vendors support the free exchange of information and not discourage healthcare providers from sharing patient safety concerns, the report suggests.