Electronic Health Records

Selection & Replacement News

New HHS workgroup to focus on mHealth, patient safety

By Jennifer Bresnick

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has selected a panel of health IT experts from hospitals, health plans, government agencies, and vendors to form a new workgroup devoted to identifying key issues in health IT innovation, including patient safety, mobile medical apps, and regulatory efficiency.  The group will hold its first meeting on April 29, 2013, and report to the Health IT Policy Committee, which advises the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC).

“Patients already benefit from innovative information technology tools such as electronic health records that allow their providers to improve coordination and delivery of care,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said. “This workgroup will help the Health IT Policy Committee consider new ways to navigate this rapidly growing industry while promoting innovation and protecting patient safety.”

“New technologies can revolutionize health care, helping to improve patient outcomes, while expanding access, creating convenience and lowering health care costs for millions of Americans,” added FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.  “We anticipate that this talented group of leaders from their respective fields of discipline will help to bring fresh ideas to the table with an eye towards ensuring patient safety.”

The workgroup brings together the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), ONC, and Food and Drug Administration (FDA), three agencies which converge to oversee mobile health issues from various angles.  The FCC recently selected Matthew Quinn to head its mHealth and rural telehealth connectivity programs as it works to enable innovation through wireless networks, broadband connections, and mobile applications taking advantage of smartphone communications.  Quinn will be a non-voting executive advisor to the group.  Meanwhile, the FDA is considering issuing final guidance about mHealth apps and devices, enabling consumers and physicians to make better choices among the thousands of applications currently available on the unregulated market.

The workgroup will examine the “types of risk that may be posed by health IT that impact patient safety, the likelihood that these risks will be realized, and the impact of these considerations on a risk-based approach,” according to its website, as well as looking at “factors or approaches that could be included in a risk-based regulatory approach for health IT to promote innovation, protect patient safety, and avoid duplicative or overlapping regulatory requirements.” Its findings will be published in an HHS report by January of 2014.

The full list of workgroup members is available through the official press release from HHS.

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