Dr. Scot Silverstein is a professor at Drexel University. He is an expert in health information technology (IT) or computer systems designed for hospitals and medical institutions. His name is well-known by others in that controversial field because he speaks out so tirelessly against the speed at which hospitals are moving into the information age. He says medical providers are thrown into using technology they know little about, and this, among other things, is putting patients in serious danger.
According to Kaiser Health News, Silverstein believes the dramatic push toward electronic health records is causing software companies and hospitals alike to overlook patient safety in an effort to catch up to the electronic age.
“We’re in the midst of a mania right now,” said Silverstein. “We know it causes harm, and we don’t even know the level of magnitude. That statement alone should be the basis for the greatest of caution and slowing down.”
Silverstein advocates government testing of medical software before it is given to hospitals and providers. He says the way things are going now, the often-flawed technology is being tested in the field, with sometimes tragic results.
The problems that can arise from such technology include medication and dosage errors, entering information on the wrong patient’s chart, data-entry errors that can lead to death, and even flipped images that can lead to operating on the wrong side of the body.
Reporting of mistakes like this is voluntary. Institutions reported 44 injuries and six deaths due to computer mistakes. If this many were voluntarily reported, how many were withheld?
The federal government is doling out grants to medical providers who switch to electronic records—so far up to $10 billion. It’s this incentive, critics say, that is causing rushed software to be used before it’s ready, before doctors are properly trained, and all at the risk of patient safety.
Technology has the potential to help hospitals prevent errors and mistakes. It could increase patient safety when used correctly. But, as Silverstein said, “patients are being harmed and killed as a result of disruptions to care caused by bad health IT….”
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