Medical errors can lead to significant health complications, disabilities and even death. Medical professionals are humans, so mistakes can and do happen. But many mistakes are avoidable. About 98,000 people die each year due to preventable medical mistakes.
There is no simple solution to prevent these mistakes, but technology can help reduce errors.
1. Data Entry Technology
People often joke about doctors’ illegible handwriting, but not being able to read a doctor’s handwriting can lead to medical errors. Thankfully, data entry technology is helping resolve the issue.
But what about data entry errors? There’s a technology solution for that, too.
Human data entry has an error rate of 0.5%, according to Richard Milam, CEO of EnableSoft. Most of these errors occur during the initial data entry process.
We now have software that is designed to streamline data entry and reduce errors. Many software solutions can perform tasks across a wide range of platforms and applications, including web-based applications, spreadsheets and Windows-based programs.
2. RFID Tags and Barcodes
Barcodes and RFID tags aren’t new solutions, but they’re technologies that have been helping reduce errors for many years. When combined with electronic medication administration records (eMARS), they’re even more effective.
Barcoded wristbands can be used with eMAR to ensure that patients receive the right medications, avoid allergy complications and prevent medication interactions.
Equipment and supplies can also be tracked using these technologies. For example, an RFID tag may be applied to surgical equipment, or surgical sponges may have barcodes for tracking.
Both of these technologies are relatively cheap, but they can substantially reduce hospital errors.
3. Fingerprint and Iris Scanning
Determining a patient’s identity can sometimes be a challenge, particularly when patients are badly disoriented or unconscious. Some patients want to conceal their identities.
Not knowing the patient’s identity can cause a wide range of problems. It is difficult – but not impossible – to obtain a patient’s identity without their cooperation. Fingerprint databases will likely expand and become more common in the healthcare industry.
Iris scanning is also emerging as a way to identify patients, and it differs from retinal scanning.
With iris scanning, the system scans the eyes using video camera technology and far infrared illumination to identify intricate details and unique patterns found in the iris. Mathematical and statistical algorithms code the pattern to create the patient’s identity.
Fingerprint and iris scanning can help prevent medical errors by ensuring that hospitals and clinics can correctly identify patients.
4. Apps to Prevent Medication Errors
Healthcare providers must do more than just provide prescriptions. They must also provide patients with essential information about taking the medication correctly, side effects, and potential drug/substance interactions.
But even well-intentioned doctors often rush through this information. Patients often don’t retain the information simply because they aren’t feeling well or are in a rush to get home.
There are apps that can help reduce medication errors by providing essential medication information in an easy-to-read format. Some apps also have a messaging feature that allows the user to speak with providers and answer questions.