Electronic Health Records

Adoption & Implementation News

ONC issues final Health IT Safety Plan, awards sole contract

By Kyle Murphy, PhD

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology has released the final version of the Health IT Patient Safety Action and Surveillance Plan. Implemented by the ONC, the plan provides insight into the responsibilities shared by agencies within the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) as well as the private sector.

The ONC released the earliest version of the plan back in December 2012 with a comment period ending in early February 2013. In particular, the ONC has identified four areas where the plan will prove beneficial to the healthcare and health IT communities:

• ONC will make it easier for clinicians to report health IT-related incidents and hazards through the use of certified electronic health record technology (CEHRT).

• The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) will encourage reporting to Patient Safety Organizations and will update its standardized reporting forms to enable ambulatory reporting of health IT events.

• The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will encourage the use of the standardized reporting forms in hospital incident reporting systems, and train surveyors to identify safe and unsafe practices associated with health IT.

• Working through a public-private process, ONC will develop priorities for improving the safety of health IT. ONC and CMS consider adopting safety-related objectives, measures, and capabilities for CEHRTs through the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs and ONC’s standards and certification criteria.

“When implemented and used properly, health IT is an important tool in finding and avoiding medical errors and protecting patients,” National Coordinator for Health IT Farzad Mostashari, MD, said in a public statement. “This Plan will help us make sure that these new technologies are used to make health care safer.”

Furthermore, the ONC has provided clarification about the role of ONC-Authorized Certification Bodies in the surveillance of “safety-related capabilities in CEHRT” with the expectation that these organizations verify how these capabilities work in live clinical settings when implemented.

The Joint Commission has been pegged by the ONC to be the sole source contract to address the recommendations contained in the Health IT and Patient Safety Plan. “The primary objective of the contract is to establish a credible and meaningful process that can be used to identify, understand, disseminate and eventually help prevent health IT-related sentinel events that may cause serious or fatal harm to patients,” the organization indicated in a public statement.

“The Joint Commission recognizes that, in order to keep pace with the rapid adoption of health information technology, it is important to adequately and knowledgeably research the emerging issues surrounding any role technology may play in contributing to instances of serious patient harm,” Joint Commission President & CEO Mark R. Chassin, MD, FACP, MPP, MPH, said publicly. “The Joint Commission has a unique opportunity to work with health care organizations and learn from the analysis of incidents of patient harm, death or near misses that are related to health information technology.”

Read the Health IT Patient Safety Action and Surveillance Plan here.

Learn more about the ONC contract for the Joint Commission here.

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