The hospital should be the safest place, a place of healing and security, but too often a trip to the hospital results in acquired infections, medication errors, or other health crises. And for doctors and administrators, those errors can turn into medical malpractice lawsuits. Luckily, new technology can help reduce risks and make patient care safer.
From RFID chips to fall risk predictors, modern hospital safety is contingent on an array of high tech supports and we’ll see more coming down the line in the next few years. These 3 new tools are just the baseline.
1. Track Everything
One of the most valuable tools hospitals have against errors is the use of RFID tracking. RFID chips are used in a range of industries, particularly in manufacturing and retail as part of inventory tracking, but in hospitals they serve a different role. Initially, these chips were introduced to prevent sponges from being left in patients during surgery. Though most hospitals were already using a system involving multiple sponge counts, when tagged with RFID chips, hospitals can individually scan in each sponge and be certain they’re all accounted for after surgery.
RFID chips are also used to reduce medication errors. Using a special restocking system, pharmacies can maintain an up-to-date list of soon to expire medications, make sure all trays are stocked with the correct dosages and quantities, and reduce restocking times. It’s efficiency and safety rolled into one.
2. Redundancy and Malpractice
The old system of counting sponges was one of redundancies, but it wasn’t always the most effective. In other cases, though, redundancies – especially with tech support – save lives. In 2003, for example, failure to institute and apply sufficient cross checks resulted in a patient receiving improper organs during a transplant. Today, electronic health records (EHRs) with their data continuity help prevent such mistakes.
In addition to making sure doctors always have access to up to date patient information, EHRs can help trace healthcare activities in the event of a malpractice lawsuit, providing evidence or mitigating information, centralizing documentation, and clarifying the intended course of treatment and predicted outcomes. As a centralized mode of communication, EHRs are the touchstone of modern medical care.
3. Data Driven Developments
As seen with EHRs, increasing security in healthcare is largely contingent on keeping computers – and that goes far beyond records. We’ve seen advanced computer technology revolutionize prosthetic limbs, in deep brain stimulation technology, and dramatically improved cochlear implants. From a safety perspective, though, advanced computing and data-driven systems have created the conditions for robotic surgery and predictive analytics.
One growing application of predictive analytics is in maintaining patient safety by identifying fall risks. Nursing homes, in particular, have found that using computers to determine fall risk can help them create safer conditions for the most vulnerable treatments and reduce the number of hospital transfers due to falls. With an elderly American treated for fall-related injuries every 11 seconds across our country, reducing accidental injuries is a high priority.
New technology is at the heart of all kinds of safety improvements, and our hospitals are no exception. It’s time for administrators and doctors to step up to the plate and engage with these new tools. The added cost of technology is certainly mitigated by the gains in safety.