Medical Experts Emphasize Role of Health IT in Patient Safety

July 18, 2014 in News

On Thursday, medical experts told members of Congress that health IT solutions, such as electronic health records, are falling short in efforts to improve patient safety, Healthcare IT News reports (McCann, Healthcare IT News, 7/18).

Hearing Details

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging, called the hearing to highlight the high number of patient deaths associated with preventable hospital errors.

He cited a recently published study in the Journal of Patient Safety, which found that as many as 400,000 patients each year suffer some type of preventable harm at a hospital that contributes to their death (Rice, Modern Healthcare, 7/17).

During the hearing, lawmakers heard from several experts, including:

  • Ashish Jha, professor of health policy and management at Harvard School of Public Health (Slabodkin, Health Data Management, 7/18);
  • Joanne Disch, a professor at the University of Minnesota School of Nursing;
  • Lisa McGiffert, director of the Safe Patient Project at the Consumers Union;
  • Peter Pronovost, director of the Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality at Johns Hopkins Medicine; and
  • Tejal Gandhi, president of the National Patient Safety Foundation (Modern Healthcare, 7/17).

Overall, the experts said the new data suggests that health IT is falling short in many areas to improve patient safety (Healthcare IT News, 7/18).

For example, Jha said that most hospitals do not track adverse events and, therefore, do not know how often patients are harmed. He noted that automated patient safety monitoring tools are currently available but most electronic health record vendors do not include such tools in their systems.

Meanwhile, Pronovost argued that despite the federal government and health care organizations spending “hundreds of billions of dollars” on health IT, “the usability of most [health IT] is poor” (Health Data Management, 7/18).

Recommendations

The medical experts told lawmakers there is a need for:

  • Improved IT systems to minimize cognitive mistakes (Healthcare IT News, 7/18);
  • Incentives that encourage a focus on patient safety; and
  • Reliable data, metrics and monitoring systems (Modern Healthcare, 7/17).

Further, Jha argued that the meaningful use program should make automated patient safety monitoring tools a key part of the meaningful use program.

Under the 2009 economic stimulus package, health care providers who demonstrate meaningful use of certified electronic health records can qualify for Medicaid and Medicare incentive payments (Health Data Management, 7/18).

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