A new committee, convened by the Institute of Medicine to study how information technology affects the safety of patient care, is holding its first meeting this week in Washington, D.C.
The Committee on Patient Safety and Health IT will listen to feedback from the health care field and review evidence that affects safety issues. It expects to issue recommendations on improving health IT-assisted care. The IOM, which 10 years ago released its landmark To Err Is Human report that launched significant policy changes in the health industry, defines HIT-assisted care as services that use technology and information exchange to influence health processes and outcomes of patient care.
The 15-month project is being sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, according to the IOM, which plans to release its final report in 2012.
Information technology safety has been a contentious issue at times. Some research results indicate that products like electronic health records (EHRs) can cause mistakes in patient care, while other reports demonstrate that safety is improved through the use of IT. In addition, the Food and Drug Administration has suggested EHRs be added to the list of medical devices it monitors for safety purposes.
The ECRI Institute, which monitors medical device safety, recently named health IT complications, data loss and systems’ incompatibilities to its list of top 10 technology hazards. Providers will see more use of software applications and EHR products, and therefore must take steps to protect patients now, the institute said in its report. “While convergence presents many benefits, including improved standards of care and operational efficiencies, it also presents many risks. Ineffective convergence can adversely affect patient care in a wide variety of ways.”