HIMSS: Don't Let HIT Obscure Patient Safety Needs

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media , February 23, 2012

Another major area that providers and vendors should address is the need for ongoing testing of electronic health systems after they are implemented. 

"This was a big issue for us on the IOM committee because it made us realize that all the testing in the world of vendor products on the shelf probably had very little to do with what was going on with the operation of these systems," Classen explained.

Certification organizations that test these devices only as they are implemented into a healthcare system won't solve the problem, he said.


2 Take-Home Messages

Classen explained that members of the IOM committee writing the report came up with two take-home messages:

1. Patient safety remains a huge problem in the U.S. and the number of deaths from adverse events is probably higher than (the 98,000 identified in the 1998 IOM report on patient safety, "To Err is Human."

2. Even in the best of hospitals that have electronic medical records in place, "we still have an awful lot of patient safety problems going on. So clearly I think we thought [that] there is an enormous opportunity going forward to find ways to improve the safety of care for patients with health information technology."

I'm not a gambler. I easily resisted any tug to put money into those one-armed bandits. But I'm glad there are so many people who are willing to stake their creative thinking and investments to find ways to bypass human situations that result in medical error.  I just hope that along the way, these systems don't create pitfalls that the IOM report and Classen are warning us to avoid.


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