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Statement by Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D., Director, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, on Institute of Medicine Report, Patient Safety: Achieving a New Standard for Care

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Press Release Date: November 20, 2003

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) Committee on Data Standards for Patient Safety is to be commended for today's report, Patient Safety: Achieving a New Standard for Care. This report, requested and funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, provides timely input on a subject of critical importance to everyone in the health care field: how to continue improving patient safety and how best to harness information technology to achieve that goal. We will be carefully reviewing all of the report's recommendations.

Secretary Thompson and all HHS agencies and programs share the common goal of ensuring that patients aren't harmed in the course of receiving care. We agree with the IOM that a National Health Information Infrastructure is an essential tool for improving health care safety and quality, and that it "should be the highest priority for all health care stakeholders." [IOM report, Executive Summary]

HHS has played a leadership role in fostering the development of data standards and making investments to identify and speed the adoption of new technologies throughout the health care system. HHS leadership of the Consolidated Health Informatics Initiative and support for the National Health Information Infrastructure has resulted in the adoption of standards for federal programs. It has also resulted in critical collaboration with the private sector to establish consensus on new coding and messaging standards essential to enabling interoperability within and across health care organizations.

Further, with the President's FY 2004 budget, HHS will provide $50 million in funding through AHRQ for activities to demonstrate the role of information technology in improving patient safety and quality. This funding will go to grants, contracts, and other projects to speed the adoption of information technology solutions in hospitals and communities, including dollars specifically earmarked for efforts in rural and small community hospital settings. HHS will also spend $10 million to accelerate the adoption and diffusion of data standards and an additional $3 million to continue efforts to promote the development of the National Health Information Infrastructure.

This new IOM report will provide valuable input as all of these efforts go forward, and it signals that these efforts are moving in the right direction. The report also provides input that will assist with other ongoing patient safety improvement programs, including HHS work on a consolidated patient safety database and AHRQ's current patient safety research aimed at identifying how to improve safety and move those findings into practice.

Every day, our nation's health system and its dedicated doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals provide millions of Americans with life-saving care. Effective partnerships between public- and private-sector groups and stakeholders, as called for in the report, will be among the keys to advancing safety and quality of care for all Americans. HHS looks forward to working with all of the players in today's health care system as we seek to make the system even better.

For more information, please contact AHRQ Public Affairs: (301) 427-1364.


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