Congressional Health Chair Asks HHS Again for an I.T. Safety Plan

Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC), chair of the House Committee on Small Business’ subcommittee on healthcare and technology, has sent a second letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius asking for a study on the benefits, costs and safety of health information technology systems. Ellmers, a registered nurse with more than two decades of nursing and administrative experience in medical practices, says she received no reply from HHS for a letter sent this past summer. Following is text of the second letter to Sebelius, sent on Nov. 14:

“I am writing today to express my concern that the Department of Health and Human Services (Department) has failed to respond to my letter of June 12, 2012, requesting information on the Department’s actions following up on the Institute of Medicine’s November 8, 2011 report calling for greater oversight of health information technology (health IT).  My office confirmed with the Department’s Office of Legislative Affairs that the letter was indeed received.  I have included a copy of it for your review.

“In its report, the IOM said evidence in the medical literature of the safety of health IT is mixed, and little published evidence has been found to quantify the magnitude of the risk.  The report further stated that “safer [health IT] systems require efforts to be made by all stakeholders” and “the public sector must be part of the solution.”  In supporting increased oversight, IOM urged you to issue a plan within 12 months to minimize patient safety risks.  In fact, the report said that the increasing use of health IT creates an “urgent need” for the development of a research agenda for the technology.  

“Almost five months ago, in my role as Chairwoman of the House Small Business Subcommittee on Healthcare and Technology, which has oversight jurisdiction over issues that concern small businesses, such as small medical practices, I wrote to you to request a copy of your plan to minimize health IT patient safety risks and a number of related documents, or the status of those documents if not yet complete, with the document to follow.  Now, just after the one year anniversary of IOM’s report, we have heard nothing from the Department about the status of any of my requests.  Meanwhile, we continue to see media reports of patient safety risks related to health IT.

“Once again, I respectfully ask that you respond to my letter and provide the requested information promptly.  Should your staff have questions about this letter, they may contact the Committee on Small Business at 202.225.5821.”

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