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Reducing human error in healthcare

Zafar Anjum | Feb. 1, 2013
Healthcare IT can seamlessly integrate and automate all processes, and ensure none are missed. It can also reduce the need for human involvement, which in many cases, is the cause for error, says Eric Lim, Director, Solutions Sales, Healthcare, Asia Pacific, Motorola Solutions.

Healthcare IT can seamlessly integrate and automate all processes, and ensure none are missed. It can also reduce the need for human involvement, which in many cases, is the cause for error, says Eric Lim, Director, Solutions Sales, Healthcare, Asia Pacific, Motorola Solutions.

In what is the first reported baby mix-up in a Singapore public hospital, two sets of parents went home from KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH) with the wrong babies. How could this human error have been prevented through healthcare IT?

A review by KK Women's and Children's Hospital revealed poor system checks in place. Nursing staff had not followed standard procedures, for e.g., tags on the babies were not thoroughly checked during discharge, which caused this mix-up.

Healthcare IT can help solve such problems by seamlessly integrating and automating all processes, and ensure none are circumvented or missed. It can also help reduce the need for human involvement, which in many cases is the cause for error.

A good example of healthcare IT based solution for this purpose is BabywatchTM by Motorola Solutions' partner Babywatch. The application is designed to meet all levels of infant identification, baby management and care. It tracks a baby by time-dating all actions relating to it, and also tracks the operator involved at every step. Any movement of infants are routinely monitored, checked and constantly verified. This electronic vigil ensures that healthcare workers are not able to circumvent any steps. For instance, there will be a necessary step for nurses to scan the barcode tags of the baby and the mother prior to discharge.

This application when combined with mobile computers enable healthcare workers to use it on-the-go. Tagging and labelling can be completed immediately at the bedside to eliminate error prone paper-based manual processes.

What other human errors could be eliminated through healthcare IT? Can you give us some examples?

Healthcare IT has the potential to reduce human errors and streamline processes in several areas in a hospital. These include areas such as medication administration, patient admission, specimen collection, inventory management, healthcare facility management, bed management, dietary management, accurate operating room inventory, to name a few.

The use of advance data capture technologies such as bar code scanners in the area of medication administration ensures the right patient is given the right medicine, in the right dosage, at the right time through the right route. Another example is the use of bar code scanners in a hospital's operating room to reduce human error. Inventory checks of surgical instruments using a bar code scanner when carried out prior and post surgical procedure can help care-givers achieve very high levels of patient safety.

 

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