ONC Panel Discusses Challenges, Goals of Proposed Health IT Center

June 11, 2014 in News

On Monday, a panel created by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT held a discussion about the goals, structure and scope of a proposed Health IT Safety Center, Modern Healthcare reports (Tahir, Modern Healthcare, 6/10).


As directed by the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act, HHS in April released a draft report that included a proposed strategy and recommendations for creating a risk-based health IT regulatory framework.

The draft report was developed by FDA, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and the Federal Communications Commission (iHealthBeat, 6/4).

Among other things, the proposed framework calls on ONC to work with FDA, FCC, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and other stakeholders to create a public-private Health IT Safety Center. The center would be tasked with developing best practices and providing an avenue for sharing information and ideas related to patient safety (iHealthBeat, 4/3).

Last week, House Republicans in a letter questioned National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo’s authority to regulate health IT products and the center (iHealthBeat, 6/4).

Discussion Details

During the discussion, panelists agreed that the center should:

  • Consider both “sociotechnical” and “human factor” issues, which include those that arise from local provider culture and workflow and the physical product;
  • Focus on the risks posed by health IT as opposed to the safety risks that could be addressed by health IT;
  • Incorporate various data streams; and                           
  • Offer “products” to make participation worthwhile for vendor and provider communities.

Participants said the center’s data could be used to compare vendors against each other.

David Bates — medical director of clinical and quality systems for information systems at Partners HealthCare in Boston and chair of the discussion — said, “Right now, it’s hard to do that,” noting that “vendors have actively resisted being compared to one another in any identified way.”

Meanwhile, Paul Tang, chief technology and innovation officer at Palo Alto Medical Foundation, said, “A lot [of data from the center] might be text and hard to parse,” but he added that such data was important. He said it “would be wonderful” if someone were able to parse the data as their “day job.”

Funding for the center is still uncertain, and ONC put a line item in its proposed budget for the project.

Tang noted, “We won’t do enforcement, but we do want to learn. That requires funding” (Modern Healthcare, 6/10).

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