New Safety Efforts aimed at Health Information Technology

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recently released recommendations  to the Dept of Health and Human Services to establish guidelines and processes for consumers and technology vendors to report Health Information Technology (HIT) related adverse events. This provides  an avenue to report injuries and deaths associated with the utilization of the technology. It reminds me of the old science fiction movies where the machines take over. Death from Health Information Technology? ” The Attack of the EHR” may be the next big cinema event. All Jokes aside, this is a serious concern as we seek the interoperability of Health Information Technology. Privacy, security, and safety of the patient and the patient’s information is an ever present issue that requires our attention.

There are documented incidents of Health Technology failures  and human failure associated with HIT which have caused harm.  Here are a few possible scenarios.  When utilizing order entry in an EHR system the operator can input improper information  and or that order can be improperly interpreted. There can also be system breakdowns which make pertinent clinical records  inaccessible. There are many other scenarios for which Technologist are diligently creating measures to prevent. However a machine will be a machine. We see daily examples of IT system errors and breeches with banks, telecom companies,  etc. This can surely happen with HIT.

The IOM’s attention to this matter is important as patients and health care professionals share concerns  and present questions about the privacy and security of patient information in an totally integrated health system.  It’s good to see that the governing bodies and HIT industry is taking a serious look at the potential problems that may occur before they actually happen. Hopefully this will caution all HIT stakeholders to  remain patient-centered as we develop, and utilize these systems. If implemented properly, HIT will do what is intended: improve the quality of health and help to save lives.

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