Health IT Needs Better Oversight, According to IOM Report

To protect Americans from potential medical errors associated with the use of information technology in patient care, a report by the Institute of Medicine calls for greater oversight by the public and private sectors. The report examines a broad range of health IT, including electronic health records, secure patient portals and health information exchanges, but not software for medical devices. The IOM called on the Health & Human Services secretary to publish a plan within 12 months to minimize patient safety risks associated with health IT and report annually on the progress being made. The plan should include a schedule for working with the private sector to assess the impact of health IT on patient safety. However, if the secretary determines that progress toward improving safety is insufficient within a year, the Food and Drug Administration should exercise its authority to regulate these technologies. The report also called for the FDA to begin planning the framework for potential regulation so that the agency is ready to act if necessary. — Visit www.iom.edu.

Group Defines 'Plug and Play' Connections Between EHRs and HIEs

A group of seven states and 11 vendors, focused on eliminating barriers to sharing electronic health records, in November issued a set of technical specifications to standardize connections among providers, health information exchanges and other data-sharing partners. The objective of the EHR/HIE Interoperability Workgroup is to define a single set of standardized, easy-to-implement connections to increase the adoption of those services. The effort leveraged existing published standards for interoperability from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. Ultimately, the specifications aim to remove impediments that make it difficult for EHRs to connect to HIEs, including technical specification differences, wait times for interface development, and high costs. — Visit www.interopwg.org.