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Medical information sharing also needs to be regulated

Steps taken by hospitals that supposedly improve patient safety must be viewed with skepticism. For example, there is little evidence that information technology and computerized medical systems have prevented doctor errors and hospital malpractice from occurring. Some individuals have even suggested that such systems have instead compromised patient safety.

A report released back in 1999 suggested that doctor and hospital errors resulted in approximately 98,000 deaths each year in the United States. However, suggestions that information sharing and technology would improve this situation appear to be in part due to wishful thinking.

Part of the problem concerning reporting of errors is that such reporting is loosely regulated. Instead of information technology and sharing becoming a means for the medical industry to self-police its own industry, it now appears that information technology and sharing also needs to be regulated.

There has long been a problem with medical providers not reporting their errors. New advancements in information technology were supposed to correct this problem. However, instead most of the vendors of such technology are not reporting instances of patient harm. In part, this comes from non-disclosure contracts that doctors and health care providers sign with such vendors. Suggestions are now being made for the Department of Human Health and Services Secretary to make reports of patient harm or death and unsafe conditions mandatory by such vendors.

It goes without saying that there needs to be transparency in the medical industry concerning instances of medical malpractice and hospital errors. As things stand, we cannot be sure of how many errors are being made by medical providers, vendors or contractors so long as such information continues to be hushed up.

Source: The Journal of the American Medical Association, "IOM: Health IT Needs Better Oversight," by Mike Mitka, Jan 10, 2012

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