Classen appeared to be saying to these tech enthusiasts that even though there's a lot of glitter in the convention halls, HIT itself could be error-prone. Despite their promise of a cooler and better way to deliver care, there is little evidence that health information technology systems to date are actually preventing harmful adverse events, he said.
In fact, at least three studies have demonstrated that such systems, even when hospitals invested enormous amounts of money in them, failed to capture a significant number of hospital-acquired conditions such as nosocomial infections.
"These hospitals all had electronic (health) records in place," Classen told his audience. "They all had non-punitive, aggressively promoted reporting systems and still they were missing most of their adverse events."
A big concern, Classen continued, is the lack of and dramatic need for requirements that vendors report safety problems and incidents of harm to some federal agency, something that they and their healthcare provider customers don't do now. That's because of language in vendor contracts that Classen and the IOM report called "hold harmless gag clauses that prevent the sharing of this type of performance information."
"A big part of our report was to change the landscape here so that these adverse experiences could be shared without legal liability for healthcare organizations and that compared user experiences... could be made widely available based on vendor performance." he said.