Patient Safety is a vital aspect of healthcare. Medical errors can lead to deaths and medical tragedies which are preventable , leading to heartburn and losses for all doctors and patients . In any industry, software is used to improve efficiency and accuracy. I am going to highlight some basic examples as to how medical software ( electronic medical records, EMR and practice management software, PMS) can be used to improve patient safety.
1. Prescriptions and Medications: The commonest errors occur when doctors write prescriptions on paper and the patient or the chemist misreads the prescription. This is a common occurrence and a printed prescription generated from software with prepopulated Drug Data is the safest bet against such a mishap. Other errors which can be prevented include: mistakes made by doctors in writing the dosage or strength( which intelligent software can automatically prevent) ; and the inadvertent prescription of a combination of drugs which can cause harmful drug interactions. These features are already present in the Plus91 clinic package , Clinkare. This ensures standardized prescriptions, reducing the possibility of error and confusion ! Another neat feature is sending reminders to the patient to take their medication at the correct time via SMS. This ensures high patient compliance , because missed dosages could lead to major problems in treatment. This feature is available in ClinION , the hospital management solution from Plus91 Technologies.
2. Patient History: If doctors are in a hurry, and if a patient comes without his old case papers , the doctor may end up prescribing the wrong treatment ! Not having easy access to the past medical records is a major pain point for all doctors ! EMRs allow storage and instant retrieval of the patient’s medical records, allowing doctors to make better medical decisions , thus ensuring patient safety. This feature ensures that the doctor no longer needs to rely on his error-prone human memory ! Intelligent EMRs also have built-in Clinical Decision Support systems , to help the doctor practice evidence-based medicine.
3. Patient Data Entry: As we know, GIGO holds true – garbage in, garbage out ! Accurate entry of patient data in the system can be ensured by various validation measures and checks in the software. A simple example is the use of validated fields , which accept only values within a pre-defined range. Thus, if the value for hemoglobin is entered as 100, this will be automatically rejected !
4. Check for Informed Consent: A patient must know what procedure they are undergoing – what the risks are; and the important dos and don’ts, to help ensure a good outcome . A software program can ensure that the consent forms are filled in using a reminder / validation system , to ensure that all the patients queries have been answered. It’s also possible to use a video/presentation format , with a consent thumbprint or electronic signature taken at the end. This is helpful for risk management, because it documents that informed consent was obtained. It also ensures that the patient follows all the key preoperative instructions ( such as coming on an empty stomach before surgery . )
5. Check lists: A checklist ( as described in Dr. Gawande’s new book “The Checklist Manifesto”) is the doctor’s most trusted friend. Clinic software programs come with check lists which need to be marked as complete before the next set of tasks ( on the next screen) can be accessed. This ensures that all important steps are carried out in order.
6. Alerts and reminders. SMS or Email alerts can be automatically sent by the software, when there is a problem. For example, if a key lab value falls out of a particular range , the doctor can be automatically alerted, so he can take the needed corrective action !