What Leading Hospitals Do to Reduce Medication Errors – and Avoid Bad Publicity

Medication errors happen more often than you think. Here's what you can do to protect your organization from adverse drug events.

9 5

When it comes to medication administration in a hospital, a distracted pharmacist, an illegible medication order, an unrecorded medication allergy, or the failure to check a patient’s wristband can be the difference between life and death.

Simply making a decimal-point error can result in a patient receiving 10 times the recommended dosage of a drug – which could have unintended and catastrophic results. Even when adverse drug events don’t result in serious patient harm, such errors can result in longer hospital stays and increased costs – to the tune of $3,000 per patient.

Despite the collective best intentions of physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and hospital executives, fatal medication errors happen more often than you think. Just consider these real-world headlines:

  • May 27, 2018: Report faults Children’s Hospital for medication errors
  • Feb. 22, 2018: Alexandria hospital patient died from medication error
  • May 11, 2016: Death of patient at Hopkins nursing home linked to medication error
  • Dec. 4, 2014: Hospital medication error kills patient in Oregon
  • March 12, 2013: Stafford nurse faces NMC over fatal drug error

Implementing Technology to Reduce Medication Errors

Unfortunately, there is no single magic bullet that will put an end to medication errors. However, study after study has shown that the most-effective way to reduce adverse drug events is through the deployment of technology. For instance, research conducted at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital showed that the implementation of computerized physician-order entry (CPOE) reduced medication error rates from 1.7 per 100 patient days to 0.49 per 100 patient days – a 55% improvement – with serious medication errors being reduced by 88%. What’s more, it is estimated that the implementation of CPOE in all non-rural U.S. hospitals could prevent three million adverse drug events each year.

In case that number didn’t sink in, let us repeat it in all caps for effect: THREE MILLION.

However powerful CPOE is, it is not a panacea. In fact, on the 2015 Leapfrog Hospital Survey, 39% of all potentially harmful drug orders and 13% of all potentially fatal drug orders were missed by hospital CPOE systems.

This is nothing short of alarming, which is why it is not surprising that a study published in Current Drug Safety, “Technology Utilization to Prevent Medication Errors,” suggested that hospitals wishing to make major improvements in reducing medication errors must go beyond CPOE to include clinical decision support systems; electronic surveillance, reminders, and alerts; bar code technology; and – above all – systems integration.

The Need for Real-Time Surveillance

The amount of data being generated by healthcare technology is vast, to say the least. Unless we can convert all this stored content from random pieces of information to strategic patient safety intelligence, we will not win the battle against medication errors. The time has come that we leverage technology to do what it does best – sift through petabyte after petabyte (for the non-techies, a petabyte is 1,024 terabytes) of information in seconds to identify data trends and fire off alerts.

This is especially true with incident reports. Although a report published in Quality & Safety in Health Care showed that incident reporting from acute hospitals is increasing (and also associated with a more positive safety culture), the individual data points presented by those incident reports make it difficult to identify long-term patient safety improvement opportunities.

What is needed is active, real-time surveillance using sophisticated algorithms that only technology can provide.

Hotspots Answers the Call

We think we’ve solved that problem, though. Our Hotspots module – which is part of the Datix patient safety technology toolkit – offers real-time problem detection through active surveillance, enabling you to record, manage, and analyze information from across your organization’s safety and risk areas.

The Datix Hotspots module automatically tracks and analyzes data in real time from across your organization. Reporting tools allow staff to extract important aggregate information, which enables you to establish where improvements can be made. Problems are exposed, and notifications are sent to staff who can investigate immediately. Activity management tools ensure appropriate courses of action.

Because Datix Hotspots focuses on real-time automated detection of problems, staff can focus on improving safety rather than digging through incident reports searching for a golden nugget. The golden nugget is identified automatically, which can help you reduce medication errors, save lives, and avoid bad publicity.

As the global leader in risk management technology and improving healthcare safety outcomes, the Datix team is dedicated to reducing not only adverse drug events at healthcare organizations worldwide, but also all preventable patient harm. It is for this reason that we choose to build software technology exclusively for healthcare, because working across industries would only dilute our focus. If you would like to bring our laser-like focus into your organization, then drop us a line. We are ready to help you improve safety, quality, and the patient experience.