Medication errors are a real problem and have been for years.
iHealthBeat reports that the 1999 Institute of Medicine (IOM) study helped focus national attention on the issue. In that study, the IOM estimated that
medicine mistakes killed at least 7,000 Americans and cost over $2 billion each year. The IOM's 2006 follow up report indicated every
medication mistake adds at least $8,750 to a hospital stay. Despite this knowledge and the continued improvements made to the American healthcare system, the average rate of
medicine mistakes made by hospitals,
pharmacist errors, and
drug slip ups by doctors has not been diminished.
Many health care experts and advocates argue that the best way to reduce medication errors is to turn to technology. This may equate to relying on electronic prescriptions to cut down on
mistakes made by pharmacists or adopting a streamlined electronic health record (EHR) that controls medicine administration to reduce the risk of a
nurse's drug error. But relying solely on technology to fix a problem raises other concerns.
Dr. John M. Grohol is the founder and CEO of Psych Central and a mental health expert. He is also an expert on how technology impacts human behavior. According to Dr Grohol, “we, as society, are embracing technology without fully understanding the long-term ramifications of this decision.” He says it is important to remember that technology is infallible. Computer systems rely on electricity, making them vulnerable to power outages. There is also no such thing as an unhackable computer. Additionally, no computer system can run constantly, despite what some companies may say to the contrary.
The problem with wholeheartedly accepting technology means we will come to rely on it and be unable to function without it, Dr. Grohol warns. According to an occupational therapist who works there, last week All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg's computer system went down. While this system outage was not deemed newsworthy, the OT expressed how chaotic the day was without the use of the computers. All of All Children's records are electronic. Orders for prescription medications and other treatments are made using the computer. It is very likely that errors in patient care were made while the computer was unavailable.
Technology can be useful a tool and should be employed to aid in the day to day functions of healthcare providers. However, it should not be the only solution to the problem of medicine misakes.