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Technology and Patient Safety

Updated: Dec 19, 2021

The Role of Technology in Improving Patients’ Safety in US Healthcare System


One cardinal contribution of technology to patients’ welfare in the United States healthcare system is seen in the use of health information technology (HIT) and electronic documentation management system (EDMS) in managing patients’ information record. Healthcare providers are empowered by HIT and EDMS to secure patients’ information, prevent errors, and provide integrated care to maintain quality care.


Electronic Documentation Management System


Electronic document management system (EDMS) is a software program that manages the creation, storage and control of documents to handle electronic information within an organization’s workflow (Minnesota Historical Society, 2012).


EDMS has improved the security and privacy of patients’ information against vulnerability of potential loss related to fire, flood and easy criminal theft by storing information in software structures, the cloud, and also limiting access to only authorized users. The historical cumbersome and tedious practice of keeping patients’ information in hard paper copies and even physical electronic storage that required high human effort for their retrieval has given way to efficient and smart storage in the cloud which are very easy and simple to recover by those authorized to do so.


Though electronic storage of health information is prone to cyber-attack as evidenced in incidents like the “DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack against Boston Children’s Hospital which cost an estimated $300,000 repairs on computer system (Genovese, 2021), the level of susceptibility and unauthorized access is better controlled and secured than the previous manual systems. Significantly, the Health insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) has strengthened the protection of patients’ information by establishing standards and guidelines for users of health information to follow. This has enhanced the commitment of healthcare providers to adopt more robust electronic systems to stay in compliance with the applicable regulations to protect the safety and security of patience than ever before.


Secondly, EDMS help prevent medical errors that account for about 20% of patient’s risks and death in the US healthcare industry (Daniel, 2016). EDMS significantly enables more accurate collection and building of coherent health information, diagnoses, treatment protocols and reviews and related reference data essential to quality care delivery to patients. Thus, the use of artificial intelligence that utilizes algorithms derived from patients’ information processing help prevent medical blunders like misapplication of health information, mistreatment, medication errors, adverse drug reactions and polypharmacy. Today, nearly every step of medical treatment has the associated information gathered and processed through electronic scanners that automatically organize them into a treatment plan and data key to the expected desired healing outcomes.


Another benefit of EDMS to patients’ safety and security is improving the authorized sharing of patients’ information among health professionals for well managed integrated healthcare. EDMS has allowed health providers to share information across integrated system databases to have easy access to medical information for prompt diagnoses and decision-making to save lives without delay. This has reduced burden to patients in carrying referral and prescription paper notes which has inherent risks of getting missing or destroyed, misreading and misinterpretation for potential medical errors.


In effect, EDMS has been a blessing to sustaining patients’ safety and security over previous paper documentation and hard disks storage that were liable for easy destruction, theft, unauthorized access, and misinterpretation for medical errors.


Health Information Technology


Healthcare information technology (HIT) is “the application of information processing [systems] involving both computer hardware and software that deals with the storage, retrieval, sharing, and use of health care information, data, and knowledge for communication and decision making” (Alotaibi et al, 2017). This clearly describes the general structure of information technology system utilized by healthcare providers in managing patients’ information to protect their data privacy and health safety. HIT has offered numerous opportunities in “improving and transforming healthcare [by] reducing human errors, improving clinical outcomes, facilitating care coordination, improving practice efficiencies, and tracking data over time” for patient safety (Alotaibi et al, 2017).


Today, society witnesses the various health information technologies that work coherently to improve patient safety outcomes. Such technologies and systems can be seen in the effective and efficient management of electronic physician’s orders, clinical decision support (CDS), E-prescribing, bar code medication administration (BCMA), smart pumps, electronic medication administration record (eMAR), patient data management systems (PDMS), retained surgical items detectors, patient electronic portals, telemedicine, electronic incident reporting, and electronic medical record (EMR) (Alotaibi et al, 2017). The utilization of the said technologies enhances the understanding of clinicians and healthcare policy makers on treatment and resource procurement respectively.


Overall, HIT and EDMS are contemporary cyber structures that have significantly empowered clinicians and health policy makers to improve the management of patient data privacy, health safety and resource procurement.


References

Minnesota Historical Society (2012). Electronic Document Management Systems. Retrieved on November 17, 2021, from https://www.mnhs.org/preserve/records/electronicrecords/docs_pdfs/DocumentMgmt-v5-march2012.pdf.


Genovese, M. (2021). Top 5 cyberattacks against the health care industry. Retrieved on November 17, 2021, from https://www.stormshield.com/news/top-5-cyberattacks-against-the-health-care-industry/


Daniel, M. (2016) Study Suggests Medical Errors Now Third Leading Cause of Death in the U.S. Retrieved on November 17, 2021, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/study_suggests_medical_errors_now_third_leading_cause_of_death_in_the_us


Alotaibi, Y; Federico, F. (2017). The impact of health information technology on patient safety. Retrieved November 17, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5787626/



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