Harmonizing Patient Safety and Technological Innovation in Healthcare

Harmonizing Patient Safety and Technological Innovation in Healthcare

Inadequate communication is one of the most leading causes of patient complaints, adverse events including hospital deaths. Communication errors, to a great extent, can be fixed by embracing the right technology. Technology is considered as the ‘science or knowledge put into practical use to solve problems or invent useful tools.' The science of knowledge begins from the ‘stone age’ and it is evolving, evolving faster than ever before. Technological advancement encompasses every domain and has made us ever more efficient and productive. Technology in healthcare helps to redress grievances, reduce medication errors, lessen adverse events, improve patient safety, and ensure compliance to accreditation standards and clinical practice guidelines.

Using IT Judiciously

It’s a fact that busy service providers rely more on equipment to carry out life-saving interventions presuming that the information technology will provide reliable outcomes whereas the literature shows that it’s not always true. This wrong notion that equipment-generated results are always right becomes a norm especially when no immediate adverse event occurs. This leads to a phenomenon called normalization of deviance - a tendency of deviating from the standard operating procedure, an inherent fallible human tendency.

Given the fact that ‘err is human…’ and unexpected adverse events do happen in any circumstances, attention should be given to detection and mitigation before it occurs. Hence, it is important that a new system and/or equipment requires to be tested in a real-world scenario, as much as possible, to identify potential problems and avoid unintended consequences. Competent healthcare quality professionals and biomedical engineers, who are more familiar with human factor engineering, have a major role to recognize the human tendency and organize simulation exercises and take corrective actions wherever required. Standardization and Forcing Functions are two major strategies adopted in healthcare to prevent inadvertent mistakes from being performed by a service provider.

Standardization

Implementing standardized tools and practices within a healthcare organization helps improve patient care. Standardizing the equipment across clinical settings is an example. Wherever possible, equipment may be standardized to increase reliability, reduce cross-training needs. Standardized processes are increasingly being implemented as safety measures.

Standardization of Infusion Pumps: There are different types of infusion pumps used for diverse purposes in a healthcare organization and these infusion pumps work differently. To add to this complexity, many healthcare organizations use varied types of infusion pumps of different manufacturers that might be a contributing factor for human error. Realizing the importance, to reduce medication administration errors, it was decided to standardize the infusion pumps in each healthcare settings. Even after the standardization of infusion pumps, medication administration errors used to occur due to the dose and frequency of the medicine infused. At this juncture, technology came up with the idea of the smart infusion pump. Smart infusion pumps are equipped with medication error-prevention software and it provides an alert to the service provider if the infusion setting crosses the configured limit. The limit can be configured with the provision to override (called ‘soft-limit’) and with NO provision to override (hard limit). This technological innovation has helped to improve infusion practices, avoid serious medication errors and ensure compliance to evidence-based practices. It has been recognized that ‘hard limits’ were more effective than ‘soft limits’ in preventing medication errors. Setting the hard-limit is an example of forcing function

Forcing Function

Forcing function is an aspect of a design that prevents an unintended or undesirable action from being performed. To elucidate more on the forcing function let us take another example. 

Request Form for Diagnostic Investigation: As an improvement project, in a multispecialty hospital, auditing the completeness of the Request Form for Diagnostic Investigation was conducted. The ‘Request Form’ must be completed by the treating physician with a ‘provisional diagnosis’ or the reason for the referral. That’s a piece of important information provided to the Radiologist, well in advance, what to look for during the analytic phase and it helps in arriving at the correct diagnosis. Initially, the completeness was just 63 percent. Reminder memos were sent to the treating consultants and after several reminders for a period of 6 months, the compliance rose to 78 percent but not more. By disabling the provision to proceed further, unless the provisional diagnosis is completed, in the Hospital Information System (HIS), the treating physicians were forced to complete this vital information and we were able to achieve 100 percent compliance promptly. 

Conclusion

This article is just a pointer, with just two practical illustrations, wherein the technology was used to ensure patient safety and to provide patient-centered care. There is substantial evidence that implementing an Electronic Health Record (e-HR) improves intra-hospital and inter-hospital communication, reduces medical errors, and enhances patient safety. Moreover, computerized physician order entry (CPOE) and computerized decision support systems (CDS) are possibly valuable technological advancements in recent times. Simulation training, telemedicine, remote patient monitoring systems are the forthcoming technological advancements especially with the impact of the pandemic. 

In this quality and patient safety journey, commitment from the top management is a significant factor. Having the right people at the right place committed to innovation cannot be overlooked. Physicians need to embrace technology and the pandemic has made those previously reticent doctors adopt new technology. It’s a wake-up call and let us look for untraveled paths in our quality journey, engaging the frontline staff, inventing new avenues, recognizing the tech’s growing role in healthcare. It is imminent, we will witness really authentic hidden gems in the healthcare domain.

Read Also

Nurses instead of Coders: Chart scrubbing at Atrius Health

Nurses instead of Coders: Chart scrubbing at Atrius Health

Judy Bleiberg Remz, Director of Risk Adjustment Programs, Atrius Health
Value-Based Healthcare is Rooted in Prioritizing Patient Needs

Value-Based Healthcare is Rooted in Prioritizing Patient Needs

Melanie Raffoul, Medical Director, NYU Langone Health
COVID 2021: The Frenemy of Telehealth

COVID 2021: The Frenemy of Telehealth

Jose Valdes, Chief Development Officer, Copa Health
Re-defining Quality of Clinical Care in Telemedicine

Re-defining Quality of Clinical Care in Telemedicine

Viraj Lakdawala, System Chief of Emergency Medicine Telehealth, NYU Langone Health
Clinical Transformation Trek: The Journey

Clinical Transformation Trek: The Journey

Roni H. Amiel, Founder & CTO, Pinscriptive
How Telemedicine is Transforming Pediatric Healthcare

How Telemedicine is Transforming Pediatric Healthcare

Saima Aftab MD FAAP, VP Organizational Initiatives, Nicklaus Children’s Health System