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Ellmers Requests Update From Sebellius on Health IT Safety Concerns

Washington, Jun 12 -

House Small Business Subcommittee on Healthcare and Technology Chairwoman Renee Ellmers (R-NC) today sent a letter to Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), inquiring about whether the Department has adopted the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) recommendations for improving the safety of health information technology (IT). The report, issued in November, recommended several steps to be taken by HHS and called for greater oversight by the public and private sectors. 

The IOM report recommended that the Secretary issue a plan within 12 months to minimize patient safety risks associated with health IT and report annually on the progress being made.  The report further recommended that the plan should include a schedule for working with the private sector to assess the impact of health IT on patient safety, and recommended several other steps to help improve the safety of health IT.

Specifically, Chairwoman Ellmers requested a copy of the Secretary’s plan to minimize patient safety risks, a description of health IT-related errors that have resulted in patient risks, injuries and deaths, and the status of the development of a mechanism for health IT vendors and users to report health IT-related deaths.  She said that because health IT has the promise to improve health care delivery for patients, physicians and other medical professionals, she remains eager to work with the Secretary to ensure that health IT is safe, effective and affordable.

In an 
August 11, 2011 letter to Secretary Sebelius, Chairwoman Ellmers said that a modern, well-equipped office is critical to the practice of medicine, and asked the Secretary to undertake a study of health IT’s adoption, benefits and cost effectiveness, including medical error rates.

On June 2, 2011, Chairwoman Ellmers’ Subcommittee 
held a hearing on the barriers to health IT that are encountered by physicians and other health professionals in small and solo practices.   At the hearing, physicians expressed strong concerns about the cost of purchasing and maintaining health IT systems, as well as the staff training and downtime necessary to implement such a system.  Chairwoman Ellmers noted health IT’s great potential to improve health care delivery, decrease medical errors, increase clinical and administrative efficiency and reduce paperwork.

For more than twenty-one years before being elected to Congress, Chairwoman Ellmers served as a registered nurse, focusing on surgical care as Clinical Director of the Trinity Wound Care Center and later helping to manage the family's small medical practice with her husband, Dr. Brent Ellmers, a licensed surgeon. As a registered nurse and the wife of a surgeon, Ellmers understands that a modern, efficient and well-equipped office is critical to the practice of medicine.                                                       

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