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A New HIT Patient Safety and Surveillance Plan


he Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) released its Health IT Patient Safety Action and Surveillance Plan for public comment on Dec. 21, 2012. The plan is in response to an Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, Health IT and Patient Safety: Building Safer Systems for Better Care, that was released in November 2011. ONC had commissioned IOM to do the report. With HIT being so central to the evolving healthcare system, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is focusing on health IT and patient safety. Both reports note that addressing health IT and patient safety is a shared responsibility among the industry, government, patient safety organizations, and healthcare providers. Many of the recommendations may impact pharmacy health IT vendors. In reviewing published evidence and vendor feedback, the IOM commission found that certain types of health IT could improve patient safety under the right conditions, but the conditions were not easily replicated and required continual effort to achieve. The IOM report notes that there is a lack of published evidence in many areas, and addresses that issue through its recommendations. Both reports note that while health IT can create new opportunities to improve patient care and safety, it can also create new potentials for harm. Further, the ONC report authors say, “Health IT will only fulfill its enormous potential to improve patient safety if the risks associated with its use are identified, if there is a coordinated effort to mitigate those risks, and if it is used to make care safer.” The ONC plan outlines proposed actions against the ten recom40


Marsha K. Millonig, R.Ph., M.B.A.

mendations made by the IOM. The plan’s Appendix A is a good summary matching actions with recommendations. The first recommendation was that HHS publish an action and surveillance plan within one year that specifies: ■ The

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and the National Library of Medicine (NLM) should expand their funding of research, training, and education of safe practices as appropriate, including measures specifically related to the design, implementation, usability, and safe use of health IT by all users, including patients.

■ The

ONC should expand its funding of processes that promote safety that should be followed in the development of health IT products, including standardized testing procedures to be used by manufacturers and healthcare organizations to assess the safety of health IT products.

■ The

ONC and AHRQ should work with health IT vendors and health-