A Case for Eliminating Medical Errors with Evidence-Based Decision Support, Health News, ET HealthWorld
Vice President – Operations & Communications,
Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi
Healthcare innovations are transforming lives around the world. Every year, millions of patients are benefitting from the breakthroughs in medical science. From advanced diagnostics, smarter healthcare delivery models, to usage of disruptive technologies and continually updated knowledge database, the last few decades witnessed a seismic shift in the way we perceive and deliver healthcare. That said, as we progressed towards improving patient outcomes, we also saw patients being inadvertently harmed due to medical errors. We know today, unsafe healthcare is a global challenge. But the question really is— how do we define medical errors, and how can we counter them?
According to the United States National Coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention, medication error is defined as “any preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm while the medication is in the control of the health care professional, patient, or consumer.” These events may be related to healthcare products, procedures and systems, professional practice, dispensing, administration, education, monitoring and wrong usage of medication. In simpler words, a failure in the treatment process that leads to or has the potential to harm the patient is known as a medical error. A report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) reveals that patients living in low-income countries experience as many disability-adjusted life years lost due to medication related harm than those in high-income countries. For patients in hospital, the impact of clinical errors is greater, and this may be attributed to the complexity of certain diseases and the use of complicated medication regimes. In children and elderly, medication errors often occur due to administration of wrong dosage, incorrect therapeutic route and a failure if the patient does not follow the prescribed treatment.
The Crucial Role of Digital Tools for Better Patient Outcomes
Today, with the increase in disease profiles and the influx of information available across online mediums, there is a dire need to have a platform that can provide filtered, precise and reliable medical information. Moreover, as the pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges for the healthcare industry, the need of the hour is a database with different treatment types used for both non-communicable and communicable diseases. Considering this, digital healthcare technologies such as Clinical Decision Support (CDS) systems are providing healthcare professionals with innovative diagnostic and treatment solutions that enable them to deliver quality patient care.
CDS systems improve patient safety, discard unnecessary tests, reduce cost, and increase satisfaction of patients and clinicians. The platforms use biomedical information, patient-specific data or a mechanism that integrates knowledge and data to present useful information to the doctor when healthcare is delivered, enabling quicker action. These platforms provide personalised treatment, for instance, finding the right treatment for a patient with cardiac ailment who has contracted coronavirus and analysing the effectiveness of antivirals and plasma therapy on them. Through CDS systems, doctors can remind their patients about regular check-ups and medicines post hospital discharge, which can aid in eliminating clinical errors related to medication adherence. Therefore, all healthcare professionals and hospitals should use CDS systems that can provide them information that is verified by doctors who have years of experience.
There are several Computerized Physician Order Entry (CPOE) applications that enable healthcare professionals to send treatment instructions including medications and laboratory orders through a computer application rather than paper or telephone. Such digital platforms automatically check for medication allergies, drug interactions and other potential problems, reducing medical errors and improving patient safety. Several other tools such as personal health records, electronic medication reconciliation and pharmacy dispensing systems also address the problem of clinical errors.
Zooming in on the importance of adopting a patient-centric approach
As per the WHO, in medium and low economic status countries including India, an estimated 138 million patients witness harm due to medical errors every year. From initial prescribing stage at the point of care to regular medication reviews, digital healthcare technologies have rendered doctors refined information in one click. Digital platforms have a set of standardized procedures and protocols that need to be followed by healthcare professionals in critical situations which enhance clinical efficacies. Additionally, a database with the updated list of medicines comes in handy through such tools.
It is imperative to understand that clinical errors do not occur due to medical negligence, in fact they include a range of honest errors and innocent mistakes which are beyond the healthcare provider’s control, despite enough caution. We experienced an onslaught and sudden surge in use of healthcare technologies owing to the pandemic. In the post pandemic, the trend of virtual care is anticipated to grow even more that will ensure smarter and quality care. And when we say digital healthcare technologies are here to stay, the rationale is to not get rid of paper record, but to adopt more patient-centric methods.
(DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are solely of the author and ETHealthworld.com does not necessarily subscribe to it. ETHealthworld.com shall not be responsible for any damage caused to any person/organisation directly or indirectly)