Tech Glitches and Medical Errors

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Tech Glitches and Medical Errors

Device interoperability is badly needed

By Working Nurse
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Does technology often seem more trouble than it’s worth? Do you feel that greater use of technology has led to more errors and reduced productivity rather than the other way around? If so, you’re not alone. A Harris Poll survey earlier this year found that many nurses are disturbed by the impact of medical technology on their practice.

Time Waster

The survey, sponsored by the La Jolla-based Gary and Mary West Health Institute, found that electronic medical devices are a major time-sink for nurses. Sixty percent of nurses surveyed reported spending three or more hours each shift just working with (and often fighting with) their various devices.

A major problem: many devices simply don’t communicate with each other. The lack of interoperability forces nurses to manually transcribe data between devices or between a device and the EHR system. Not only is that time-consuming, it increases the likelihood of medical errors. Half of the nurses surveyed said they had personal experience with such errors.
A Common Language

Almost every nurse surveyed thought medical errors and adverse events would be at least somewhat decreased if devices could seamlessly communicate with one another. A whopping 69 percent of respondents agreed that reducing distractions for nurses would also improve patient care and safety.

West Health Institute is calling on Congress, the FDA and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to demand common standards for medical technology, a move the institute says is long overdue.         

“Widespread, open standards-based interoperability would go a long way toward improving the quality of care and reducing costs,” concludes the survey report. You can read the full report here.  

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