CHIME: ONC's role in health IT safety plan 'overstated'

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Commenting on the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT's Patient Safety & Action Surveillance Plan unveiled in December, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives say that implementation of such a plan should be facilitated by stakeholders not directly under government control.

In a letter sent to National Coordinator for Health IT Farzad Mostashari this week, CHIME CEO Richard Correll and board chair George Hickman call for "voluntary consensus bodies" to lead such efforts, as opposed to the ONC.

"We are concerned that ONC's role in ensuring the safety of health IT may be somewhat overstated in this plan," Correll and Hickman say. "We believe that ONC is properly suited to help convene and coordinate other agencies inside [the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services] in developing an oversight framework for health IT safety. But rather than rely upon existing approaches for regulation of health IT, or develop new regulations within various corners of HHS, CHIME believes that implementation of such an endeavor should rely on a stakeholder-driven organization, including--but divorced from--federal agencies."

What's more, resources allocated to such efforts should be monitored carefully to ensure "reasonable" measures are being taken, according to Correll and Hickman. While they agree with the general approach ONC suggests, they want to ensure that providers aren't "unduly burdened."

For instance, they say, they want providers to be able to "avoid the construct where there is a separate process for addressing health IT safety apart from other safety issues."

"Creating a safety reporting silo that only focuses on health IT would be duplicative … and also result in the failure to capture many relevant events," they say.

ONC's report addresses recommendations made in an Institute of Medicine report issued in November 2011. In that report, IOM proposes that a new agency be set up to monitor health IT-related safety issues. In its new proposal, HHS says it would establish an ONC Safety Program to implement its safety plan, but does not mention a new agency. It says it will work together with other federal partners including the FDA.

Correll and Hickman say they agree with ONC's approach to leveraging existing policy levers and programs within HHS, rather than creating another federal entity to enhance health IT safety.

To learn more:
- read CHIME's letter (.pdf)

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