Hospitals around the world have decided to begin taking matters into their own hands when it comes to electronic medical records (EMR) add-ons. EMRs have been instrumental in reducing errors in the medical field and in ensuring patients receive the proper care.
Information technology arrived late the the healthcare field. It wasn’t until 2009 that federal regulations applied financial incentives to drive the implementation of EMRs. While this implementation has been expensive and a big adjustment for those in the healthcare industry, there’s no doubt it’s been extremely beneficial.
With an estimated 98,000 Americans dying every year because of preventable medical errors, including 7,000 deaths due to errors in medication administration, there’s no question that EMRs have helped decrease this risk.
EMRs improve patient safety in many ways. First, they require computer-based physician orders, which eliminates illegible handwriting and misinterpreted verbal communication. Second, there is an implementation of checkbox options that offer only correct doses of medication, which prevents overdoses. And third, nurses can now compare a bar code on the patient’s wristband to the label on the medication to ensure the patient is receiving the correct medication.
While EMR already serves a variety of safety features it’s continuously serving as a platform for innovation as well. A James Bender, MD, medical director for clinical informatics, and Robert S. Mecklenburg, MD, medical director of the Center for Health Care Solutions, have witnessed a variety of innovations with EMRs.
Some of these innovations include the addition of detailed prompts to help providers standardize care as well as the sharing of medical information to engage patients in holding providers accountable for their care. “Mistake Proofing” has been a key innovation among this technology.
Transparency on delivering recommended care counteracts the traditional hospital culture. Virginia Mason has electronic scoreboards in public areas in the intensive care unit. These boards display red or green lights to show the current treatment status of every patient in the unit to prevent the formation of blood clots in the legs. These boards allow not only doctors and nurses, but also patients and family members, to work together in quick identification and correction of incomplete care.
Additionally, the EMR technology can automatically order essential lab tests prior to adjustments in medications. EMRs also have the ability to select key data from databases and bring it directly to the provider and the patient at the time of care.
Electronic medical record technology is continuously being innovated to show how EMR can be applied to achieve safer, more efficient, and more affordable health care.