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Policymaking, Regulation, & Strategy

Health IT and Patient Safety

Health IT makes possible enormous improvements in health care quality and safety, compared to paper records. Yet if not designed and used correctly, it can also introduce new risks of harm. While recent years have seen rapid growth in the adoption of electronic health records (EHRs) and health information exchange (HIE), much remains unknown about the role of health IT as both a cause of and means to preventing patient harm. Health IT can only fulfill its enormous potential to improve patient safety if the risks associated with its use are identified, if there is a coordinated effort to mitigate those risks, and if it is used to make care safer.

The Health IT Patient Safety Action and Surveillance Plan (“Safety Plan” or “Plan”) addresses the role of health IT within HHS’s commitment to patient safety and builds upon the recommendations made in the 2011 Institute of Medicine (IOM) Report Health IT and Patient Safety: Building Safer Systems for Better Care. The Plan has two related objectives:

  1. Use health IT to make care safer, and
  2. Continuously improve the safety of health IT.

Consistent with the premise that all stakeholders share the responsibility to ensure that health IT is used to make care safer, the Plan leverages existing authorities to strengthen patient safety efforts across government programs and the private sector—including patients, health care providers, technology companies, and health care safety oversight bodies. It also lays out concrete steps to increase knowledge about the impact of health IT on patient safety and maximize the safety of health IT-assisted care.

ONC released the Health IT Safety Plan for public comment on December 21, 2012. The final version of the Plan was published on July 2, 2013. ONC is coordinating the implementation of the Plan through the ONC Health IT Safety Program. This site will be updated regularly to reflect progress towards implementation and make available resources and other materials developed under the Plan.

Final Plan and Related Materials

Tools and Resources

ONC and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) are supporting research and development of evidence-based tools and interventions designed for various stakeholder audiences, including health IT developers, implementers, clinical staff, and patient safety organizations (PSOs). An up-to-date list of tools and resources is available on the Health IT Safety Tools and Resources Page.

Funding Opportunities

As indicated in the Notices, these have a special receipt date of March 28, 2014 associated with them.  Both Notices expire on March 29, 2014.