Everyone’s for patient safety, but…

IOM report draws mixed response from providers, policymakers, advocates

WASHINGTON – When the prestigious Institute of Medicine called for sweeping changes across healthcare to ensure health information technology is being used safely, the reaction from healthcare providers and policymakers was swift – and mostly positive.

However, Doug Duncan, MD, an orthopedic surgeon, who began his orthopedic practice in Springfield, Mo. in 1977 following his residency at the Mayo Clinic, responded by going to what he believes is the heart of the matter. Duncan argues that the timeline for achieving meaningful use is too demanding and too short.

“What’s the rush?” he asked. “The well-known IOM report of 1999 was called ‘To Err is Human,’” Duncan wrote in a comment on the Healthcare IT News website. “Allow me to predict that one of the conclusions of the new Health IT Safety Council will be: ‘To Rush is to Err.’”

“Providers already have too much on their plate trying to provide patient care with the current financial strains, coding challenges, keeping up with government regulations, demand for information and the medical legal climate,” he wrote.

Farzad Mostashari, MD, who as national coordinator for heath information technology, is charged with implementing the government’s meaningful use program, seemed to welcome input from the IOM on the matter of health IT.

"I think the report will bring more stakeholders together to improve quality and safety of care,” Mostashari said, at a meeting of the federal Health IT Policy Committee, “and I think this committee will be an important part of that.”

Paul Tang, MD, CMIO of Palo Alto Medical Center and also a member of the Health IT Policy panel, agreed. "ONC takes safety very seriously," he said. “The government wants to be proactive in understanding risks and how we can mitigate the risks.”

Patient privacy advocate Deborah Peel also weighed in, opining (in a news release from her organization, Patient Privacy Rights), that “there is no question that widespread use of untested, unproven EHRs and health technologies will potentially cause injuries and deaths and different kinds of medical and human errors.”

The IOM report makes clear that the safe application of health information technology is a life-or-death issue. And it urges Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to call on Congress to establish an independent federal entity for investigating patient safety, deaths, serious injuries or potentially unsafe conditions associated with health IT.

HIMSS weighed on the IOM’s work, calling the report “a notable contribution to the dialogue on how to make the American healthcare delivery system safer.”