Numerous obstacles have kept the public from understanding the extent of patient harms that have stemmed from the use of health information technology, according to a federal advisory panel.
Lack of transparency a threat in health IT: IOM
The Institute of Medicine's Committee on Patient Safety and Health IT concluded in a report, released yesterday, that insufficient information is available to objectively assess health information technology's safety. HHS' Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology requested that the IOM compile the report and outline key patient-safety issues stemming from the use of health IT.
The authors of the report, Health IT and Patient Safety: Building Safer Systems for Better Care (PDF), examined peer-reviewed literature, sought public input on health IT harms and interviewed representatives of health IT companies.
"We tried to balance the findings in the literature with anecdotes from the field but came to the realization that the information needed for an objective analysis and assessment of the safety of health IT and its use was not available," they wrote.
The available evidence demonstrated that health IT clearly has produced incidences of harm; the authors cited a study that found that computerized prescribing systems had error rates of up to 38%. However, the pervasiveness of such harmful patient impacts remains unclear.
Other obstacles to safer use of health IT systems, according to the report, include legal protections erected by manufacturers. For example, some vendors include "hold-harmless clauses" in their sales contracts that allow them to escape responsibility for errors or defects in their software. Such restrictions limit transparency and knowledge of patient safety risks from specific health IT products, the authors wrote.
"These barriers to generating evidence pose unacceptable risks to safety," they wrote.
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