How hospitals can make patient safety a marker for their digital maturity
The scale of medication errors has long been recognised by the World Health Organisation, which says they are a leading cause of injury and avoidable harm to patients in healthcare systems. Globally, they cost providers an estimated $42 billion every year.
While many hospitals have invested in electronic prescription systems, their unaligned workflow and lack of EMR integration mean that they are rarely providing support at essential touchpoints throughout the patient journey.
A survey carried out among European hospitals by The European Collaborative Action on Medication Errors and Traceability (ECAT) discovered that while 94% have electronic prescription systems, only 20% of them are integrated with a Clinical Decision support system. This existing technology is not being used to address medication errors effectively.
A widespread problem
The problem of medication errors is far reaching, says Christian Cella, vice president, Wolters Kluwer Clinical Effectiveness. It exposes weak points throughout the patient journey, from sub-optimal automation to a lack of integration of comprehensive drug data within the EMR, which could help reduce alert fatigue and patient risk. It also has a negative impact on efficiency in the prescription workflow.
“In some geographies the problem is either under-estimated or not addressed at government level. But it should be mandated as part of the digitalisation of a country in public and private health,” he says.
According to Cella, even when digital solutions are implemented, they are inadequate for the task. “Sometimes they create what I call a ‘boomerang’,” he adds.
“They are so busy screening from multiple angles that they create too many alerts for doctors that are not specific, too generic, and physicians are getting annoyed by the information they are given. This can result in what we term ‘alert’ fatigue’, where clinicians start to override and potentially disregard critical alerts. These systems are contributing to burnout instead of supporting the clinician through the decision-making process. That is the opposite of how it should be.”