Physicians can begin signing up online for a free, electronic patient-safety alert system that will notify them via e-mail as well as by letter of Food and Drug Administration warnings for drugs and medical devices.
The launch of the Health Care Notification Network is the culmination of an effort by the DFA and the iHealth Alliance, a not-for-profit consortium of the American Medical Association and other medical societies, medical malpractice insurance carriers and healthcare organizations.
The HCNN is a separate network, but it is a byproduct of a conversation we had with the FDA three years ago, said Ed Fotsch, a physician and chief executive officer of Medem, the developer of a physicians' communication portal and patient personal health-record service founded in 1999 by the AMA and several national medical societies. The Medem personal health record is overseen by the iHealth Alliance.
We told them (the FDA) we wanted a data feed. If there was a recall or a warning we wanted to be able to send it directly to the patients, Fotsch said.
As a result, Medem, a subscriber to MedWatch, the FDAs patient-safety and adverse-events reporting program, began sending alerts out to patients if they matched a medication in their iHealthRecord.
We started this over two years ago and send an alert out several times a month on average, Fotsch said. The irony was that the patients would be getting these alerts at the same day electronically and the docs would be getting them three days later in the mail. Sure enough, we started getting hate mail from the docs.
Physicians asked if they could get the online alerts, too, Fotsch said. Now the answer is yes, through the HCNN.
In addition to an e-mail system, the service will work with both a patients PHR and a physicians electronic medical-record system, according to a news statement released in connection with a news conference this morning to launch the HCNN. Fees to maintain the system will be paid by either pharmaceutical or device manufacturers or the FDA, Fotsch said. Negotiations are under way with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to incorporate public health warnings into the system, Fotsch said.
David Troxel is a physician and medical director and a member of the board of governors of the Doctors Co., a medical malpractice insurance carrier based in Napa, Calif., that is an HCNN sponsor. According to Troxel, the paper-based alert system, which relied on mail delivery, was slow, expensive and inefficient. Replacing it with an electronic alert system will speed the timely delivery of FDA warnings, which should have an impact, eventually, on medical malpractice liability, but it is too early to tell whether it will be enough of a factor to lower premiums.
My position and the companys position is that, yes, this should be an important patient-safety initiative, Troxel said. When you dont have any base line to measure it against, you can only say were going to measure it closely. So, it would have some impact on reducing medical malpractice liability, but until we can see some effect, we wont be introducing reductions in premiums.