Editorials

Health information technology and patient safety

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e1096 (Published 20 February 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e1096
  1. Christopher A Longhurst, chief medical information officer1,
  2. Howard M Landa, chief medical information officer2
  1. 1Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94304, USA
  2. 2Alameda County Medical Center, Oakland, CA, USA
  1. clonghurst{at}lpch.org

Rigorous transparent evaluation of software is crucial, but regulation may stifle innovation

Patient safety is an important component of the delivery of high quality medical care. The use of health information technology (health IT) can have both positive and negative effects on safety. In light of this, the American Institute of Medicine (IOM) released an advisory report on health IT and patient safety in late 2011.1 The goal of the report, commissioned by David Blumenthal—former head of the Office of the National Coordinator of Health IT—was to review evidence on the impact of health IT on patient safety and to recommend actions to be taken by the private and public healthcare sectors. This comprehensive review of the literature described both benefits and unintended consequences of health IT, and it acknowledged that insufficient information was available for an objective analysis that could accurately quantify the trade-offs between safety benefits and harms. Although the report makes many thoughtful recommendations, the lack of adequate supporting data raises concerns about the legitimacy of recommendations that call for more aggressive government regulation and oversight of health IT.

One of the first and best supported recommendations of the IOM report …

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