Past Meetings

Technology to Address Medical Errors and Patient Safety

4/17/01  Back

Theme: The Role of Information Systems in Reducing Medical Errors
Presenters: James L. Oakes, Jr., CEO, Criterion Health Strategies, Inc.
Jerry Johnson of Brodeur Worldwide

Summary of Mr. Oakes' Presentation:

Recent reports from the Institute of Medicine have highlighted the issue of medical errors, and the unnecessary deaths attributable to them. Although many healthcare providers are starting to address these issues, they are frequently not including an analysis of their information systems capabilities in determining short-term actions that can be taken. Use of information technology is an essential component of an error reduction program if a provider wants to gain the significant qualitative and economic benefits that can be gained by reducing errors.

Unfortunately, most providers use only a small portion of the capability of their existing information systems, and have a perception that new technologies that can reduce errors require significant capital investment. While it is true that some technologies do require major investment, it is also true that providers can realize significant improvements in quality and safety (and associated economic benefits) by taking better advantage of information and information systems already in their inventory. For example, databases for analytical purposes can be constructed from information sources probably already available in the institution. Studies based on these data sources can yield significant qualitative and quantitative benefits, as illustrated by one case study that reduced nosocomial infections by more than 60%. 

Another example shows how a hospital was able to eliminate a significant risk in the charting of medications for ICU patients held in the Emergency Department merely by making modifications in their computerized Pharmacy system to accommodate those patients.

Finally, areas for investigation (using failure model analysis techniques) are identified where better use of information systems capabilities has the potential to significantly reduce risks in departmental communications, with particular emphasis placed on improvements that can be implemented with minimal capital investment.

Summary of Mr. Johnson's Presentation:
Jerry Johnson of Brodeur Worldwide spoke on how health and technology providers should communicate on the issue of medical errors.

Jerry outlined the demographic, political and societal factors that have pushed the medical errors "issue" into the limelight. He then described
how providers, consultants, and technology vendors face a classic "Catch-22" communications situation: any message that recognizes
improvements simultaneously admits and reinforces the fact that medical errors occur. This can undermine confidence among consumers and poison
relations between the technology provider and the health care provider. The presentation related medical errors to other industry issues, and
included original Brodeur research showing who consumers trust the most with their health. In conclusion, Brodeur provided a communications
framework along with practical strategies and tactics that companies can use to talk about the medical error issue.

Brodeur Worldwide is a global public relations, communications and strategic consultancy for technology-driven companies in IT,
business-to-business, business-to-consumer, e-business, and health market sectors. Brodeur's Health Technology Practice comprises public relations
professionals who understand the unique challenges facing the healthcare industry and the specialized world of technology public relations.