One of the best ways to reduce medical errors in the nation’s healthcare system is to expand the role of electronic health records, investigators recently claimed.
“Leading healthcare organizations are using electronic health records to address patient safety issues,” said Dean Sittig, Ph.D., co-author and professor at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Biomedical Informatics.
“But, the use of EHRs to address patient safety issues hasn’t hit the mainstream yet and we think everyone should be doing this,” Sittig added. Full study findings appear in the July 6 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
One way to fast-track the use of EHRs to address patient safety issues would be to highlight and incorporate the annual patient safety goals of The Joint Commission, authors noted.
The Joint Commission’s 2011 National Patient Safety Goals include identifying patients correctly, getting test results to the right staff person at the right time, making sure medications are labeled correctly and checking medications for possible adverse reactions.
“The implementation of electronic health records may do more to improve the quality and safety of care than almost any other initiative,” said M. Michael Shabot, M.D., chief medical officer for the Memorial Hermann Healthcare System.
In the Memorial Hermann Healthcare System, caregivers use bar code scanners — much like the ones employed by store clerks to price products — to ensure that patients get the right medications.
“We have bar codes on our medications,” Shabot said. He also noted that there are bar codes on patients’ wristbands.
“Before a nurse gives a medication, he or she takes a portable scanner and positively identifies both the patient and the medication. If there have been any changes in the patient’s electronic health record such as new lab work that might advise a change in the medication, or not giving it at all, the nurse will be notified,” he added.