New Technology Could Reduce Hospital Drug Errors
Issue Of Patient Privacy Still A Question
POSTED: 9:02 pm EDT June 24, 2004
UPDATED: 9:17 pm EDT June 24, 2004
MADISON, Wis. -- The nonprofit Institute of Medicine said up to 100,000 people die each year from medical errors. But some claim that rate could be cut dramatically.
Federal and local health officials at a University of Wisconsin health conference Wednesday said information technology holds the key to better health care.
President George W. Bush and Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson want a paperless health care system in 10 years or fewer.
The issue will be coming up with an electronic medical records system that shares information with lots of doctors but still maintains patient privacy.
"There are ways of making sure a patient's identity is protected, and that there would be releases from patients when their information would be shared to a different provider," said Kathy Heuer, assistant deputy secretary of health and human services.
Federal officials said it's critical the government come up with a single computer language.
In the meantime, technology that tackles medical errors is already in place at the UW Hospital in Madison.
At the hospital, patients have to have a special wristband scanned before they get their drugs. The wristbands link the patients with software listing the proper drugs for them.
"We obviously take care of whether we're using paperwork to determine medication distribution or an automatic scanner, but mistakes can occur when people get busy," said UW Hospital oncology nurse Janice Parker. "It's a human-nature thing. This absolutely does protect us against that."
In a pilot study in Parker's oncology unit, medication errors were cut by 87 percent since the wristbands have been in place.