ONC-Funded Roadmap Provides Plan for HIT Safety Center

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology has released a plan for developing a national Health IT Safety Center, seeking to define the center’s focus, functions, governance and overall value.

The mission of the center would be to serve “as a place where stakeholders—both individuals and organizations, in the private sector (nonprofit and for-profit) and government—work together to create a learning system committed to two main objectives: using health IT to make care safer, and continuously improving the safety of health IT.” To support an “optimal” HIT Safety Center, the roadmap estimates that a funding level of $17.8 -$20.6 million over five years will be required.  

Developed by RTI International under contract with ONC, the roadmap is based on input from a task force of health IT safety experts, patient advocates, clinicians, vendors, and healthcare organizations.

“Many stakeholders are already heavily engaged in various aspects of patient safety; the Center would support and complement these activities, not replace them,” states the roadmap. “The safety of health IT can be improved, and the improvement should be continuous, as part of a learning health system. To realize the proposed Center—and create a trusted space for collaborating on solutions—ONC should work with stakeholders from across the health care spectrum and government to gain support for a Health IT Safety Center based on the model described in this document.”

Last year, ONC along with the Federal Communications Commission and Food and Drug Administration jointly released a draft risk-based health IT framework that included a proposal for ONC to create a HIT Safety Center. However, ONC’s initial concept for the HIT Safety Center has come under fire from Republicans in Congress who argue that the agency has overstepped its authority. Specifically, a January 2015 memorandum from the Congressional Research Service to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce questioned ONC’s legal authority to in fact create such a center. As a result, lawmakers have so far refused to authorize $5 million in funding to initially establish the center, part of the Department of Health and Human Services’ $92 million budget request for ONC in fiscal year 2016.

Also See: Lack of Funds from Congress Leaves Health IT Safety Center in Limbo

To help allay the concerns of legislators, the roadmap emphasizes that the HIT Safety Center “will not include activities that are exclusively the responsibility of Federal entities, and, therefore, cannot be delegated to outside parties, such as the exercise of regulatory authority, establishing government programs, and decision making related to Federal budget expenditures and priorities.”

The Health IT Safety Center Roadmap is available here.

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