The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology recently opened a new app challenge focused on patients safety appropriately called the Reporting Patient Safety Events Challenge.

The challenge stems from a 2011 Institute of Medicine Report, The Health IT and Patient Safety: Building Safer Systems for Better Care, which among other things, recommended voluntary adverse event reporting using a format developed by the US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

The focus of the challenge is to find a way to tackle the fact that hospitals are being asked to report adverse events to multiple entities, state, local and federal, public and private. These entities do not have a common reporting methodology because they vary in terms of the type of adverse events they are focused on and how much information they desire for hospitals to report.

An additional burden is that some of these reporting methods are still paper based. This can decrease their utility because providers are too busy to incorporate them into practice or other administrative staff grow tired of them, given all the paperwork these individuals manage on a regular basis.

There’s clearly a need to make adverse event reporting much easier and not paper based. This is where the challenge comes in. The ONC provides clear requirements for what software addressing this challenge should contain including the potential format to use for collecting adverse event data, the flexibility for hospitals to modify whatever standard format exists, and other additional features that would be useful for hospitals – such as a feature that allows them to generate reports for the US Food and Drug Administration.

One requirement for the challenge seems to imply that research is required for this challenge. The requirement states that the new software tool should increase the rate of reporting of patient safety events and improve the quality of reported data. However, the first prize is only $50,000, so such a requirement seems a bit too lofty for newly developed software, which will still need extensive beta testing before it is relied on for collecting patient safety data. There are also other highly complex requirements such as making the app able to download electronic health records information. Given all the various types of electronic health records being used by hospitals, one app that addresses all types appears to be quite difficult, especially when many systems are proprietary.

Overall, this challenge clearly meets a needed goal but the amount of money being offered seems low given the extensive requirements and the tremendous amount of work that is required to meet the challenge. Companies that have already developed software for adverse event reporting will likely have the edge in this competition, but only time will tell.

The patient safety challenge opened on April 12, 2012 and closes on August 31, 2012. The winners will be announced at the Health 2.0 conference from October 7 – 10, 2012 in San Francisco. More information can be found on the challenge website.