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Healthcare Needs an NTSB-like Agency

By smace@healthleadersmedia.com  
   October 14, 2014

A nervous American public wasn't reassured by the absence of a crack team of patient safety experts descending upon the Texas hospital to determine the exact cause and sequence of events leading to the death of a patient with Ebola.

As we enter what may turn into the Ebola era of U.S. healthcare, the long-discussed issue of the effect health IT has on patient safety is suddenly moving from the back burner to the front.

Just last week, HHS awarded a contract to Research Triangle Park, NC-based RTI, a research institute, to create a roadmap for the Office of the National Coordinator's health IT safety center. It's a first step, contingent on ONC receiving funding for the center itself, on ONC's path to providing needed oversight for the variety of medical errors attributed to health IT technology and use.

As part of the HHS award, RTI will create a task force of stakeholders to get input on the roadmap and prepare a report summarizing the evidence on health IT safety since the IOM report was issued in 2011. The report will also evaluate any available interventions and tools that would optimize the safety and safe use of health IT such as electronic health records systems.

But the Ebola outbreak may change all this.

With Texas Health Resources' initial blaming of its EHR software for the inappropriate release of Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan (he died days after being readmitted)—and its subsequent retraction—a nervous American public wasn't reassured by the absence of a crack team of patient safety experts descending upon the hospital to determine the exact cause and sequence of events leading to the errors.

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Scott Mace is the former senior technology editor for HealthLeaders Media. He is now the senior editor, custom content at H3.Group.

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