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Improving Patient Safety and Information Technology Calls for Greater Leadership, Collaboration, and a Systems-Based Approach

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Washington, D.C.– Improving information technology’s role in providing safer care requires leadership and public-private sector collaboration, the use of data from existing reporting and analysis efforts to set priorities and measure progress, widespread adoption of best practices, and continued development and use of safety standards, according to a new report by the Bipartisan Policy Center.

More than 15 years ago, the Institute of Medicine released two landmark reports, catalyzing efforts to improve patient safety and quality. Such reports highlighted the critical role that health IT plays in achieving these goals. Since then, the federal government has invested more than $36 billion in electronic health records (EHR) and as a result, nearly 90 percent of hospitals and physicians are now using EHRs. While health IT has been shown to improve the safety, quality, and cost of care, there are instances in which it has the potential to create harm if not effectively developed, implemented, or used.

Several steps have been taken by Congress, the executive branch, and the private sector to advance an oversight framework for health IT, but additional actions are greatly needed to realize health IT’s potential in improving patient care in the United States.

BPC’s new report, Patient Safety and Information Technology, outlines recommendations for improving health IT’s role in providing safer care for patients while promoting innovation. It was developed through a comprehensive literature review, as well as interviews and roundtable discussions with 40 experts and stakeholders. Recommendations include:

  • Launching a coordinated effort –supported by public and private sector funding – to set health IT safety priorities, drawing upon existing reporting and analysis efforts.
  • Accelerating the widespread dissemination of existing best practices that address priority health IT safety issues and coordinating efforts to address gaps in care.
  • Continuing to advance development and adoption of safety standards.

“Improving information technology’s role in providing safe care is a shared responsibility among those who develop products and those who use them,” said Senator Bill Frist, MD. “Understanding where the problems are through a non-punitive learning approach, and then working together on actionable solutions will improve patient safety in our health care system.”

“Improving safety in the development, implementation, and use of health IT requires three primary strategies,” said Rep. Bart Gordon. “These include using data to understand the nature of the problem, developing and driving the adoption of standards, and promoting widespread use of best practices.”

“The 21st Century Cures Act laid the groundwork for an oversight framework for health IT by providing much-needed regulatory clarity,” said Janet Marchibroda, BPC’s director of health innovation. “The next step requires action on the part of both the private and public sector—who must work together to create an environment of learning and improvement.”

This report was funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Read the full report.