Technology has the potential to significantly improve healthcare while reducing costs, but there are two key stumbling blocks to the successful and safe implementation of these tools that have yet to be appropriately addressed.
The first stumbling block is one that has been a concern for some time – the privacy issues, around who can see and access the information, as well as the basic security of the information itself.
The second stumbling block has been laid out in a new report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) titled Health IT and Patient Safety – building Safer Systems for Better care.
Here are a few excerpts from the reporte:
“Health IT has clear and demonstrated potential to improve patient safety; it also can cause harm. Current literature is inconclusive regarding the overall impact of health IT on patient safety”
“Current market forces are not adequately addressing the potential risks associated with use of health IT”.
From the preface:
“Stories of patient injuries and deaths associated with health information technologies (health IT) frequently appear in the news, juxtaposed with stories of how health professionals are being provided monetary incentives to adopt the very products that may be causing harm. These stories are frightening, but they shed light on a very important problem and a realization that, as a nation, we must do better to keep patients safe.”
“The [IOM] committee was asked to review the evidence about the impact of health IT on patient safety and to recommend actions to be taken by both the private and public sectors. … We examined the peer-reviewed literature in depth and solicited examples of harm from the public… We found that specific types of health IT can improve patient safety under the right conditions, but those conditions cannot be replicated easily and require continual effort to achieve.
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. This realization was eye-opening and drove the committee to consider ways to make information about the magnitude of the harm discoverable.
With between 44,000-98,000 lives lost every year due to medical errors in hospitals, the reports recommendation of creating an oversight agency that would investigate medical IT errors much like the way the National Transportation Safety Board investigates airplane crashes makes a great deal of sense.