The same health IT system will not provide a one-size-fits-all solution because every healthcare organization is unique. Different populations will require specialized solutions and each health IT system must be flexible to implement the right resources for those specific needs.
Quality Care Begins with User Friendly Information Technology
Article Nov 15, 2018
What do heart disease, cancer and medical errors have in common? They are the primary instigators of death in the United States.
Acknowledge the Problem
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University published an article stating that the third leading cause of death in the United States is due to medical errors. While that may not come as a shock to medical professionals, it should still be concerning. Even for those who claim this statistic is far-reaching (Alspach, 2016), the need for some type of reform is evident.
The knowledge is like a dirty little secret no healthcare provider wants to admit. Mistakes happen. Fortunately, there are technological advances that can close certain gaps in medical care and decrease this terrible statistic. Improving the quality of patient care and methods to reduce medical errors are linked with the growing field of Health Information Technology (HIT).
Lower the Numbers
While the knowledge of medical errors may not be new, recent developments in information technology have provided new opportunities for reducing these numbers. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has implemented electronic Clinical Quality Measures (eCQM) to improve the quality of medical care. In addition to eCQM, the requirement for electronic health records (EHR) was also designed to decrease medical errors.
Tanner and colleagues noted in the peer-reviewed journal, Applied Clinical Informatics, that implementation of an EHR system improves patient care. Of course, accurate and reliable documentation depends on user friendly software. The usability of HIT and EHR systems directly affects patient outcome because it is key to providing quality care at the right time.
Improve Access to Patient Data
The ability for a provider or healthcare professional to access critical patient information quickly and efficiently is one key way to improve patient care. From the moment a patient engages with healthcare professionals, the EHR comes into play. In this manner, HIT usability is the first encounter a patient receives concerning quality of care.
When information is missing or delayed, patients may not receive accurate care. The provider may misdiagnose them, or they may not receive the correct dose of medication necessary to treat their condition. As the healthcare system becomes more burdened with patients, the need for an HIT that can keep up with hard working professionals increases.
Reduce Medical Errors
Statistical data provided by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, has revealed a significant reduction in hospital-acquired conditions as a result of numerous measures implemented in recent years, one of which has been the nationwide implementation of EHR. The analysis appears promising for patients. Along with improving the quality of patient care, this reduction has also been financially beneficial with a savings of $19.8 billion nationally over a period of four years.
Attempting to meet the many new standards and regulations being thrown at healthcare organizations can be daunting, but the reward is great. Some say patients should be treated like customers of medical care. They are so much more than that, though. Patients are fellow human beings in need and deserve the best care possible. With that in mind, reducing the rate of medical errors seems like a worthy goal. If developing new protocols and procedures will accomplish that task, then every healthcare organization should strive to do that.
When healthcare professionals work with a system that is not user friendly, mistakes can happen. If a nurse has to jump through hoops when charting, more time is taken away from patients. Also, if the EHR system has glitches, documentation may be accidentally placed in another chart or not be saved at all.
There have been times when duplicate orders are performed due to a system error, leading to unnecessary testing that decrease patient satisfaction and overburdens the healthcare organization. Taking shortcuts in the HIT department does not save money in the long run.
Embrace the Unique
Having the goal of reducing medical errors can be beneficial for everyone and will improve the quality of patient care in many unseen ways. Because everyone is unique and each community has specific struggles, every healthcare organization must be tailored to meet those needs.
For instance, certain sectors of the US have noticeably higher rates of colon cancer, and healthcare organizations in those areas must increase screening measures to meet this need. The HIT system alerts providers when their patients have not been properly screened, ensuring a diagnosis is not missed. This is just a simple example of the importance that HIT has in preventing medical errors to improve the quality of patient care.
The same system will not provide a one-size-fits-all solution because every healthcare organization is unique. Different populations will require specialized solutions and each health IT system must be flexible to implement the right resources for those specific needs. Improving the quality of patient care can be achieved by reducing medical errors, especially with user friendly IT systems.
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. (2015). Saving Lives and Saving Money: Hospital-Acquired Conditions Update.
Alspach, J. G. (2016). Medical News Headlines: Don’t Believe Everything You Read.
Johns Hopkins Medicine. (2016). Study Suggests Medical Errors Now Third Leading Cause of Death in the U.S.
Tanner, C., Gans, D., White, J., Nath, R., & Pohl, J. (2015). Electronic health records and patient safety: co-occurrence of early EHR implementation with patient safety practices in primary care settings. Applied clinical informatics, 6(1), 136.
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