Plan taps health IT to end medical errors

ONC plan taps health it to end medical errorsPhoto used with permission from

With sights set on utilizing health IT to curb the alarming number of medical errors that transpire each year, ONC officials unveiled July 2 their final plan to bolster patient safety initiatives nationwide. 

Officials said the Health IT Patient Safety Action & Surveillance Plan builds on recommendations from the 2011 Institute of Medicine report on Health IT and Patient Safety. ONC has created the Health IT Patient Safety Program, within the Office of the Chief Medical Officer, to coordinate this undertaking.

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

The plan outlines the responsibilities to be shared across the Department of Health & Human Services and details significant participation from the private sector. Through the plan:

  • ONC will make it easier for clinicians to report health IT-related incidents and hazards through the use of certified electronic health record technology.
  • The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality 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 will consider adopting safety-related objectives, measures, and capabilities for EHRs through the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs and ONC’s standards and certification criteria.

To accompany the plan’s surveillance of safety-related capabilities in, ONC also issued guidance July 2 clarifying that ONC-Authorized Certification Bodies will be expected to verify whether safety-related capabilities work properly in live clinical settings in which they are implemented.

In addition to the plan, Mostashari also announced ONC has contracted with The Joint Commission to better detect and proactively address potential health IT-related safety issues across a variety of healthcare settings. The Joint Commission will expand its capacity to investigate the role of health IT as a contributing cause of adverse events and will identify high-priority areas for expected types of health IT-related events.

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