Report Calls for Greater Role for Standards in Improving Health IT

Posted June 2, 2017

A new report from a bipartisan think tank in Washington, D.C. emphasizes the role that standards play in creating and supporting a health information technology (IT) framework that protects patient safety and promotes innovation. The report also recommends continued development and adoption of standards in this area.

“Accreditation and certification bodies should incorporate such standards into their programs to support adherence,” said the report, Patient Safety and Information Technology: Improving Information Technology’s Role in Providing Safer Care, from the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC).

Although a number of studies have shown that health IT helps reduce medication errors, improve quality outcomes, and reduce cost of care, it also has the potential to harm patients if it is not effectively developed, implemented, or used, according to the BPC report.

“Additional actions are needed to advance an oversight framework for health information technology,” BPC said in an online statement. In addition to the advancement of standards, the center made two other recommendations: launch a coordinated leadership effort to set health IT safety priorities, and accelerate the widespread dissemination of best practices and tools.

“Standards are widely used across multiple industries and can set the minimum expectations necessary for an acceptable level of performance,” the report said.

In the report, BPC highlighted AAMI’s initiative to develop standards that address risk management practices and quality system principles for health IT.

“Standards are a way for a community to share knowledge and develop consensus on what is required to develop safe and effective healthcare technology. Without sector‐specific standards defining what is expected of health IT vendors, it will be difficult―if not impossible―for the community to realize the full potential of health IT,” said Joe Lewelling, AAMI’s vice president of emerging technologies and health IT. “What we are trying to do is create a safety culture in the health IT arena.”

AAMI is currently developing a series of four health IT standards, known as the AAMI HIT1000 series, that will address risk management, quality systems, and usability. The first standards in the series are expected to be published by the end of the year as provisional standards, which are standards for trial use.

“The importance of usability, quality system practices, and a risk‐based framework in promoting the delivery and implementation of consistent, high‐quality clinical health IT has been identified by various organizations,” Lewelling said. “While general usability, quality system, and risk management principles are covered in many existing standards, these standards do not offer the sector‐specific detail needed to ensure consistent application across the health IT industry. In addition, these standards do not provide the requisite focus on patient safety, health, and security necessary for the health IT sector.”

According to BPC’s report, having standards such as the AAMI HIT1000 series is just the first step. Entities such as the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT must also ensure that vendors adhere to requirements that promote patient safety.

In general, the BPC report outlined five key principles for a health IT framework. They are:

  1. Health IT safety should be integrated into broader patient safety efforts.
  2. Patient safety efforts should address the entire health IT life cycle.
  3. Patient safety is a shared responsibility.
  4. A non-punitive, learning system approach will drive improvement.
  5. Health IT safety approaches should be evidence based and data driven.