Meaningful Use is a mandate by the Federal Government requiring hospitals and providers to adopt the use of an electronic medical record. The mandate goes much deeper than that but the hope is more robust electronic systems will create efficiencies and safety in the health care world.
Technology is a tool and like any tool someone has to run it for it to work properly. I am very much in favor of the trend and initiative to increase the use of electronic medical records but I do not believe it is a solution, it is simply a piece of the puzzle.
EMR’s and other technology like bar coding systems and automated medication dispensing do not guarantee patient safety. For technology to increase patient safety it must be supported by good care processes.
Health care is beginning to look to the airline industry for guidance in terms of patient safety – and for good reason. Aviation is one of the safest industries we know and that’s because of fail-safe processes that prevent human error. Aviation incorporates check lists and redundancies to prevent errors.
In health care 99% of the errors are created by faulty processes, not faulty people. Technology is an important piece of the process but not the only piece. We need to look at processes as a whole and determine opportunities for error and then build in fail safes for those error prone areas if we want to have a major impact on patient safety.