A recent report found in the Journal of Patient Safety states that between 210,000 and 440,000 patients die in U.S. hospitals every year due to preventable medical error. This figure would make medical mistakes more deadly to Americans than both heart disease and cancer. A personal injury lawyer in Chicago understands that figures this high are unacceptable and must be brought down as soon as possible.
Technology is one avenue to which many in the healthcare profession are turning to create devises or systems that limit the amount of harm medical staff and doctors can do to patients. The following five technologies should be implemented in every hospital in the U.S. to limit medical error.
- Iris scan
Iris scan technology is one of the most accurate identity authentication systems in existence today. It is used throughout the world in many applications and has recently emerged as a means of identifying patients in healthcare settings. Iris scanning is not the same as retinal scanning, which requires physical contact and is now seldom used. When iris scanning is performed, the system scans they eye using video camera technology and near infrared illumination to capture the intricate details of the unique patterns found in the iris. Using complex mathematical and statistical algorithms, it codes the pattern to immediately identify patients.
When used in a healthcare setting, this technology can be used to ensure that patients are who they claim to be and may help identify incoherent or unconscious patients in emergency departments. This can be invaluable in giving emergency room doctors access to patient charts and records, and could help prevent potential drug interactions or allergies. It may also be used to prevent patients from receiving treatment meant for another person, even if much of their identifying information is similar.
- Sponge detection
In the medical profession, there are certain serious errors that are so egregious, they should never occur. These errors are known as “never events” and occur as many as twelve times a day. Retained foreign objects, including sponges, are incredibly common never events. Patients with retained sponges may experience life-threatening infections, crippling pain, and death if not promptly treated.
In many operating rooms around the country, surgical sponges are manually counted. This practice is severely prone to human error. To help reduce rates of this never event, many hospitals are investing in bar-coded or RFID-chipped surgical sponges. Instead of keeping tally in their heads, surgical staff simply scan a sponge’s barcode or pass the RFID-chipped sponge in front of a sensor and the computer keeps count and knows exactly which sponges need to be accounted for.
According to a study found in the Annals of Surgery, the use of automated counting using bar-coded surgical sponges greatly improves the detection of missing sponges during surgery. The system is also easy to use and well-tolerated by surgical staff members.
- Electronic health records
According to HealthIT.gov, electronic health records are digital versions of patients’ paper medical charts. These records allow doctors to have real-time information that they can use to make important healthcare decisions with and for their patients. The systems are secure and may help doctors get a more complete view of a patient’s health history than they would receive from paper charts alone. Doctors can more easily become aware of dangerous signs or symptoms, drug interactions, and other medical errors by using these systems
EHRs are seen as such an important part of patient care that they were mandated by the federal government with the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Heath Act in 2008. The law states that all hospitals and offices must adopt and successfully demonstrate meaningful use of EHR technology by 2015 in order to avoid Medicare penalties.
- Bar code technology and eMAR
One of the greatest contributors to medical errors is medication mistakes. A new system that many hospitals are using throughout the nation uses bar code technology in conjunction with an electronic medication administration record to keep track of the medications patients are receiving, when and at what dosage. This greatly reduces medication administration and transcription errors. A personal injury lawyer in Chicago may see many of these deadly errors throughout his or her career.
Patients simply receive a barcoded wristband that nurses scan prior to administering a drug. The nurse then scans the drug and the eMAR system checks for adverse drug interactions, dosage errors, and whether the correct patient is receiving the correct medication. Many systems also alert nurses when medications are supposed to be administered.
- Computerized Physician Order Entry
Technology is used to reduce prescription errors in other ways. Computerized Physician Order Entry is a system that many hospitals and offices throughout the nation have embraced. This technology allows doctors to electronically order medications, tests and procedures directly using the hospital’s main system. This eliminates any problems associated with illegible handwriting, which can be incredibly dangerous given the number of prescriptions with dangerously similar names. Moreover, these systems require doctors to enter every field before it will be accepted into the system. Therefore prescriptions cannot be ordered unless they state dosage, route, and frequency.
If all hospitals simply implemented these five technologies, the rates of medical errors are likely to significantly decrease. Illinois patients who have been injured by a medical error should contact a personal injury lawyer in Chicago for assistance. With their help, patients can receive compensation for their injuries and help ensure that other families do not experience the same trauma at the hands of a medical professional.