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Patient Safety and Information Technology: Improving Information Technology's Role in Providing Safer Care

More than 15 years ago, the Institute of Medicine released two landmark reports that catalyzed efforts to improve patient safety and quality in the U.S. health care system. Both reports, To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System and Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century, highlighted the critical role that health information technology (IT) plays in improving the safety and quality of health care.[1],[2]

Since that time, more than $36 billion in federal investments have been made in electronic health records with the goal of improving health and health care.[3] As a result of these investments, the vast majority of hospitals and physicians practicing in the United States are now using health IT.[4],[5]

Numerous studies have shown that health IT reduces medication errors, improves quality outcomes, and reduces the cost of care. However, there are instances in which health 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 needed.

Additional actions are needed to advance an oversight framework for health information technology.

This report explores the intersection of patient safety and IT, assesses progress made, and makes policy recommendations for implementing a health IT framework that both protects patient safety and promotes innovation.

A recap of BPC’s recommendations, outlined in more detail in the report, is provided below.

1. Launch a coordinated effort?supported by public and private sector funding?to set health IT safety priorities, drawing upon existing reporting and analysis efforts.

2. Accelerate the widespread dissemination of existing best practices that address priority health IT safety issues and coordinate efforts to address gaps. 

3. Continue to advance development and adoption of safety standards.

Listen to the podcast below for a discussion on the recommendations. 

[1] Institute of Medicine Committee on Quality of Health Care in America. Linda Kohn, Janet Corrigan, and Molla Donaldson, Editors. “To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System.” National Academy Press. 1999. Available at:
[2] Institute of Medicine Committee on Quality of Health Care in America. “Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century.” National Academy Press. 2001. Available at:
[3] Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. March 2017 EHR Incentive Program. 2017. Available at:
[4] JaWanna Henry, Yuriy Pylypchuk, Talisha Searcy, and Vaishali Patel. “Adoption of Electronic Health Record Systems among U.S. Non-Federal Acute Care Hospitals: 2008-2015.” ONC Data Brief, no.35. Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology: Washington D.C. May 2016. Available at:
[5] Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. “Office-based Physician Electronic Health Record Adoption.” Health IT Quick-Stat, no.50. December 2016. Available at:
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