Patient-safety task force looks to Web to collect data

Computerworld |  Software

A federal government task force today began work to standardize patient medical data collection among four health care agencies to improve medical safety for patients by reducing preventable errors by doctors.

According to an announcement, the new Patient Safety Task Force was created within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to allow the four HHS agencies to share the data they each collect. Currently, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration and the Health Care Financing Administration collect medical safety data, but not in formats and categories that can be easily shared with other agencies.

The idea, said an HHS spokeswoman, is to "identify mistakes early, so the same mistakes don't keep getting made again."

The new system is probably more than a year away, and discussions on what type of system will be used haven't yet taken place, the spokeswoman said. Much of the discussions of the task force members, who will come from the four agencies, will center on what data should be collected and how to categorize and collect the information.

The Bush administration is "committed to patient safety and reduction of medical errors as a key priority," HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said in a statement.

"Working with our state and private sector partners, we can make much better use of the information we already collect, and we can translate that information into quality gains for patients" while streamlining reporting burdens faced by health care providers and making important findings more accessible, he added.

Dr. Julie Gerberding, head of the hospital infections program at the CDC, said that eventually, patient safety information may be available through a Web portal where data can be stored and accessed by medical and government authorities. The project is in the "conceptual stages" now, and the task force will collect information from users before seeking out IT representatives to determine which technologies could make the project work.

Next week, the task force will issue a contract request to seek ideas on how to integrate the reporting systems to improve data collection and use by health officials.

The task force is meeting in Reston, Va., for a two-day summit that continues tomorrow. Attending are representatives of medical professional organizations, state health departments, state licensing boards, accrediting bodies, patient advocacy groups and others interested in patient safety reporting.

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