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How New Innovations Are Counteracting the Rise of Medical Errors

In most industries, an error simply means lost time, productivity, or revenue. In the healthcare sector, an error can be the difference between life and death. Thus, when it comes to innovation in healthcare, new technology is paramount.

Sounding the Alarm on Medical Errors

According to a comprehensive study that gathered data over an eight-year period, Johns Hopkins patient safety experts have determined that more than 250,000 deaths per year are due to medical error – in the U.S. alone! This makes medical errors the third leading cause of death in the country – even if official organizations like the CDC don’t classify it as such.

“Incidence rates for deaths directly attributable to medical care gone awry haven’t been recognized in any standardized method for collecting national statistics,” says Martin Makary, M.D., M.P.H., professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “The medical coding system was designed to maximize billing for physician services, not to collect national health statistics, as it is currently being used.”

As the coding system evolves and more people in authority begin to recognize what constitutes a medical error, the issue will finally begin to receive the attention it deserves.

The Role of New Innovative Technology

Medical errors are defined as “preventable adverse effects of medical care.” They include everything from misdiagnoses and medication mistakes to improper procedures and mistakes during surgery. And while the imperfection of human nature means they’ll never be fully eradicated from a system, new and innovative technology is taking strides to reduce the frequency of these mistakes.

Here’s a look at some specific areas of emphasis:

1. Simulations

Every doctor, nurse, and healthcare worker has to start somewhere. At some point, classroom training comes to an end and fresh employees must begin interacting with actual patients. Unfortunately, this represents a huge risk in terms of medical errors. Even with the correct oversight from superiors, new doctors and nurses are far more likely to make significant errors in their first few months on the job.

One of the ways healthcare organizations are bridging this gap between classroom learning and real world experience is by using simulation programs. This is quite common in pharmacy settings.

“Not only do simulation programs help pharmacy students gain the necessary experience to do their jobs safely in the real world, new tools like simulation recording software allows users to film the simulation for later review,” Intelligent Video Solutions mentions. “Since students usually only have limited access to simulation equipment, video of the tasks is often the best alternative.

In addition to recorded simulations, we’re also seeing a rise in the use of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to help doctors understand new procedures and processes that they haven’t yet performed. As the technology in this space improves, look for AR and VR to become a bigger part of learning.

2. Advanced EHR Systems

Each year, medication errors happen during 3.8 million hospital admissions and an additional 3.3 million outpatient visits. An estimated 7,000 people die as a result of these mistakes (134 people every week). Many of these errors occur when a patient is seen by more than one physician and information is forgotten, lost, or not entered into the patient’s records.

Whether it’s medication error, interactions with other drugs, wrong dosages, or any related matter, the good news is that most of these problems can be avoided with better record keeping and a more accurate exchange of information.

Advanced Electronic Health Records (EHR) systems are being used to prevent many of these issues. They carefully track information and provide a seamless flow of information so that nothing slips through the cracks.

3. Predictive Analytics

As more data is collected and the technology for storing and interpreting this data improves, healthcare organizations are excited about the potential of predictive analytics.

Within the context of healthcare, predictive analytics are being used to predict patient risks and outcomes, suggest the best possible treatment plans, and actively reduce medical errors that result from ill-advised decisions.

Prescribing a Safer Future

As mentioned, it’s impractical to completely eliminate medical errors. It is, however, realistic to envision a future in which medical errors are diminished by 50 or even 75 percent. The hope is that the innovations highlighted in this article will play a role in this positive transformation. Let’s keep an eye on this issue and see what happens over the next three to five years.

This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of EconoTimes.

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