The HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology recently awarded a $989,000 contract to the Institute of Medicine to conduct a one-year study of the safety of health information technology systems. In a new entry on ONC's HealthITBuzz blog, National Coordinator David Blumenthal explains the reasons behind the study.

The institute published influential studies on patient safety in 1999 and 2001 that gave new focus to the issue, but not enough progress has been made, Blumenthal contends. "The end of that decade is now just three months away, and not to mince words, we're behind the ambitious schedule that the IOM report envisioned."

In theory and practice, health I.T. can reduce errors and improve safety, he notes. "At the same time, however, it would be naïve to suppose that HIT-assisted care can deliver its full patient safety benefits in a single stroke--or that HIT will not present its own safety issues."

As the study progresses, federal officials "will move where appropriate" to improve surveillance, reporting, product safety and clinician performance, according to Blumenthal. "But at the same time, we will anticipate a 'deep dive' in knowledge synthesizing and a new round of productive recommendations from the IOM."

Click here for the full blog.

--Joseph Goedert


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