Amid concerns about patient safety, a consensus is emerging: The government needs a way to monitor the safety of health information technology it is encouraging hospitals and doctors to buy with $27 billion in economic stimulus.
But how to keep track of possible problems, especially those that could jeopardize patient safety? It's up to the feds to figure out.
That is the essence of a federal advisory committee's April 21 recommendation that the government find a way to oversee problems with the technology that includes creation of a central database to track problems ranging from potential hazards to serious injuries or death.
While the federal advisers offered few suggestions on how to make this system come together, Paul Egerman, a software entrepreneur who led development of the committee's recommendations, tells us that he envisions something akin to oversight for the airline industry.
The advisors also have outlined several key elements a health IT safety monitoring system should have: A way to investigative serious incidents, a way to protect anyone filing a report from facing retaliation or litigation, and a way to issue alerts of potential hazards across the country.
As we've pointed out in stories earlier this week, there's a lack of a reliable and systematic method for tracking problems and responding to them. There's little policing of systems despite instances of consequences to patients who were injured or died.
The Investigative Fund compiled a database of 237 instances of deaths, injuries and malfunctions reported to the FDA's "adverse events" database. But as one FDA official said, those reports might represent "the tip of the iceberg" of safety issues tied to the implementation of health information technology.
So we're trying to do a little tracking of our own: We want to hear from doctors, software companies and patients who have had experience with these devices. Some complications could include incorrect medication dosages ordered electronically, missing data in a patient's electronic records or test results accidentally swapped for another patient's or entered incorrectly.
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