Monday, August 2, 2010

Improved Patient Safety Using Software

Patient Safety is a vital aspect of healthcare. With a fairly large number of indirect deaths and also potentially life threatening situations resulting directly from lack patient safety it becomes a vital cog in the healthcare machinery. Software products are introduced in any setup to increase efficiency and accuracy, both important factors when trying to improve safety. I am going to highlight some basic examples how inherently as well by actual design patient safety measures can be improved through normal Electronic Medical Records or Practice Management Software.

1. Prescriptions and Medications: The most common errors are seen when doctors write prescriptions on paper and the patient or the chemist misread the prescription. This is a common occurrence and a printed prescription generated from software with already present Drug Data is the safest bet against such a mishap. Other errors which can be prevented include, mistakes made by doctors in writing the dosage or strength, which in software can be fixed to prevent wrong entries, also a check on concomitant medications interfering the drug can be done. These features are already present in the Plus91 clinic package Clinkare. Ensures no errors happen due to differing writing styles or hand writing.
Another neat feature is sending reminders to the patients/nurses to take the appropriate medication at the correct time via SMS. This ensures no missed dosage which could have lead to problems. This feature is available in ClinION the hospital management solution from Plus91 Technologies.

2. Patient History: Doctors in a hurry, if patient comes without papers can prescribe the wrong treatment in case the data is not properly documented. It is vital to know previous visit experiences which can help the doctor make a better decision. Almost all softwares allow storing overall patient and current complaint history which helps doctors make better and more accurate decisions thus ensuring patient safety. This feature ensures that reliance on memory is less!
In the new age software patient history can also be coupled with Clinical Decision Support systems to help the doctor make his or her decisions in a better and more accurate manner.

3. Patient Data Entry: This is an exclusively software based point. Accurate entry in the system can be ensured by various validation measures and checks. This may slow down the process but a good process ensures the software protects the basic problems that can happen. Some key examples are: a. Validated fields which take only certain values and anything outside throws an error, b. Every time a new page is opened or traversed the patient name is popped up to double check the correct patient data is being filled in, c. Two person check entries at very vital and critical data entry points (used often in clinical trial data management), d. SMS or Email alerts in case of a vital sign going outside normal range at the ICU

4. Consent Checks: A patient must know what procedure they are undergoing, the risks and also most importantly dos and don’ts. A software can for all the procedures ensure that the consents are filled using a reminder / validation system to ensure the patients have been given the once over either by the doctor as a series of questions and answers which are entered in the system or using a video/presentation format with a consent thumbprint or electronic signature taken at the end. This is vital so that the patient does not make mistakes because of not knowing he or she had to come empty stomach for a procedure.
Plus91 softwares automatically allow you to link vital consent forms to various tests, procedures and consultations and remind you to get them filled.

5. Check lists: The Indian Born adviser to the American President on Healthcare issues is Dr. Gawande just released his new book “The Checklist Manifesto”. A checklist is the doctor and hospital staffs most trusted friend. Often negligence cases leading to patient safety mishaps happen because proper procedure was not followed. Many types of software come with check lists which need to be marked as complete before the next screen of tasks can be accessed. This ensures that all important steps are carried out and in order.
Checklists can be determinate that is fixed in nature like an inventory for a particular type of surgery. Some check lists can be flexible, like an in house patient prescription check list or schedule followed for an entire ward. Using software both can be checked and managed without a fuss.

6. Improved analysis: Software allow us to collate all sorts of medical data, this data can now also be analyzed to make future decisions better. Knowing what kind of patients react to which medication, or which months cause more complaints of a particular type of disease or maybe information on which doctors have better recuperation rates vis-à-vis their treatment methods all allow the healthcare system to better prepared for future patients.

1 comment:

  1. I would also add one more point, 7th. Modern EMR's should have some sort of visualization of patient data in other words a tool that enables a physician evaluate a patient easily without digging the history. It is very important in low-resource settings where number of patients are not proportional to number of health professionals.