As we all know and see, the impact of medical errors and injuries resulting from medical care (adverse events) is on patients and their loved ones. The toll can be measured in terms of anxiety, disability, and death. The providers are the other victims of unsafe systems. Therefore, patient safety deems very necessary on moral and ethical grounds.
The first federal initiative to computerize healthcare began in 2004 when the US government created the Office of the National Coordinator for Healthcare IT (ONCHIT). Healthcare Information Technology (HIT) can improve patient safety by enhancing medical communication; making healthcare information more readily accessible; prompting for relevant data of information; helping with calculations; monitoring and checking in real time; and providing decision support.
Healthcare provision is very information intensive and the volume makes it challenging. Information is stored on paper charts in most hospitals and doctor's offices and patient's information does not move with her. Computerization of the medical record takes care of medical errors that represent failures in communication and data transmission. Electronic medical records come very handy when multiple providers need to view patient level information simultaneously. To be able to move the necessary information around with the patient when she moves from state to state, from outpatient to inpatient or hospital to hospital will usher in an information salvation era.
IT solutions to the problem of medication errors will need to tackle both the prescribing and the administration phase of the medication process. HIT is likely to tackle prescribing errors through computerized provider order entry (CPOE) system and computerized decision support while tackle administrative errors through bar coding and radiofrequency identification techniques.Tackling prescribing errors:
CPOE is a computer-based system of ordering medication and other tests. The advantages of CPOE system over paper-based system are many including absence of handwriting problems, quicker to reach the pharmacy, ability to link to drug - drug interaction warnings or an alert to a potentially dangerous laboratory result. They can also suggest actions like checking for glucose level when ordering to start insulin. The installation of CPOE systems helps organizations to standardize chaotic processes and thus add to safety advantages.
In computerized decision support systems, clinical care is computerized and is possible to provide information to clinicians at the point of care. For example, an intensive care unit system can smartly alert the physician or nurse when a patient's vital signs go outside preset parameters. Besides clinical care, these systems have begun to focus on diagnostic decisions. Programs will be written to draw information from electronic medical records and produce possible diagnoses that will automatically be updated for accuracy.
Tackling administrative errors:
Many healthcare institutions are implementing barcoding or radiofrequency identification solutions to reduce medication dispensing errors. Usually a nurse confirms a three-way match before a medication can be administered by swiping a barcode on the medication, the patient's wristband, and her own badge. Bar code medication administration (BCMA) could be very time consuming. In radiofrequency identification (RFID) system, the medication package has an implanted chip that transmit a signal and allows for passive identification. RFID solution is more expensive. To prevent intravenous infusion errors smart intravenous pumps have been devised with built-in danger alerts, clinical calculators, and drug libraries. The need is to interface these smart pump systems with other medication systems.
Hence, in conclusion, Information Technology is a great tool to the physicians to help them make correct decisions in diagnosis, and therapy! HIT systems will prove to be a great blessing in improving patient safety and therefore, perfecting this technology in terms of careful design and implementation should be given a high priority.