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Can a Photograph Save a Life?
Submitted by kcarew on Wed, 06/20/2012 - 16:49
With the advent of electronic medical records, some medical errors associated with old-fashioned paper records are slowly diminishing.
But, with the introduction of new technology, new mistakes are being made. Even electronic records still leave room for human error.
One such medical error occurs when a hospital patient gets a treatment or test intended for someone else after the doctor mistakenly puts the order in the wrong electronic chart. This can happen when a doctor has numerous patient charts open at once and loses track of which electronic record they are in.
An article published in the journal Pediatrics this month highlights a Colorado hospital’s efforts to improve the quality of care and reduce medical errors by using photographs in a patient's EMR.
In 2009, the Children’s Hospital of Colorado’s quality improvement program determined that orders placed in the wrong patient’s electronic record were the second most common reason that patients received erroneous treatments or tests.
"We were surprised by that," Dr. Daniel Hyman, lead researcher on the new study and Chief Quality Officer at the Children’s Hospital of Colorado said in an interview earlier this month. A doctor “can think [they're] in one person's chart, but really be in someone else's," Hyman explained.
To address those types of medical errors, the Aurora, Colorado hospital modified its computer system so that when an order is placed for a test or treatment, an ‘order verification screen’ is triggered which includes a photo of the patient in question.
This additional step seems to be working.