Transforming Health Care
Wakefield (2008) observes that one of the key barriers to improving patient safety that is indicated in To Err is Human is the “lack of awareness of the extent to which errors occur daily in all health care settings and organizations.” By focusing on lack of awareness, this statement immediately situates the problem of medical errors in the domains of medical information management and use. This post discusses how the rise in information technology has helped to alleviate the concerns about patient safety raised in To Err is Human. The post also provides a summary of how informatics has enhanced health care safety in my organization.
Information technology and patient safety
To Err is Human reports that most of the medical errors arise due to faulty systems, procedures and conditions within facilities (Plawecki & Amrhein, 2009). The report shifts the blame for these errors from people to faulty systems that make it difficult for medical professionals to prevent errors. It further makes recommendations to improve health care safety through good leadership, research, well-defined protocols, reporting and continuous learning from errors, and standardization of services (Plawecki & Amrhein, 2009). To a large extent, the application of IT in the health care sector has helped many facilities to make these necessary changes.
For instance, computerized technologies have proven useful in monitoring of medication schedules and accurate measurements of dosage. In intensive care, the use of biometric monitoring systems and closed circuit cameras has equally enhanced care and response in case of emergencies (Ehteshami, Rezaei, Tavakoli & Kasaei, 2013). Computer technologies also continue to provide tools for efficient recording, management, retrieval, transfer and use of medical records and information. With the help of the internet, these technologies have also enhanced safe sharing of information among professionals to support coordinated care for patients.
Health informatics and care safety
The main concern of health informatics is on how to manage the overwhelmingly large health data and harness its potential using innovative technologies to enhance effective health care service access and delivery (Collen & Ball, 2015). In my organization, health informatics has helped to provide tools for faster analysis of health information and the generation of accurate results to support quality decisions. Our hospital is quite old and, as such, has generated huge chunks of information over the years. The hospital has digitized much of this information in the last decade. The application of health informatics has enabled us to make easy reference to past records, to identify similar patterns of illnesses and track treatment options. One area that needs improvement is training of staff on HIT and health informatics. The area of data analytics still presents a complex challenge for most practitioners.
Collen, M. F., & Ball, M. J. (Eds) (2015). The History of Medical Informatics in the United States. London: Springer-Verlag.
Ehteshami, A., Rezaei, P., Tavakoli, N., & Kasaei, M. (2013). The role of health information technology in reducing preventable medical errors and improving patient safety. Int J Health Syst Disaster Manage, 1(4), 195-199.
Plawecki, L. H., & Amrhein, D. W. (2009). Clearing the Err Reporting Serious Adverse Events and “Never Events” in Today’s Health Care System. Journal of Gerontological Nursing, 35(11), 26-29.
Wakefield, M. K. (2008). The Quality Chasm series: Implications for nursing. In R. G. Hughes (Ed.). Patient safety and quality: An evidence-based handbook for nurses (Vol. 1, pp. 47–66). Rockville, MD: U. S. Department of Health and Human Services.