4 adverse events hospitals are addressing with technology

Close to 25 percent of patients admitted to hospitals may experience an adverse event that could lead to complications with their condition, medication mishaps or even death, according to data from Harvard Medical School in Boston, but technology may be the prescription that curbs these instances.

With safety measures in place, nearly 25 percent of all adverse events are preventable, according to the same study. 

"Harm is still distressingly frequent in hospitals, but with wider adoption of robust interventions, many of which use new technology, we can make hospitals safer for patients," David Bates, MD, medical director of clinical and quality analysis for Somerville, Mass.-based Mass General Brigham and lead author of the study, told The Wall Street Journal.

Hospitals can utilize technology to improve patient outcomes and reduce harm in the following common safety issues, according to the study:

  1. Medication mistakes: Giving patients the incorrect dosage or incorrect medicine is one of the most common types of adverse events, though even the correct medications can result in adverse reactions. Now several hospital systems are using artificial intelligence to identify patterns in medication reporting, logging, and more in an effort to detect errors. The system can also "notify clinicians of potential harm in real time by, for example, catching changes in lab results that show a medication may be causing harm to the kidney," according to The Wall Street Journal.

  2. Patient falls: Measures to enhance education for patients coupled with technology can aid in preventing adverse events. According to The Wall Street Journal, Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston developed a program to identify patient risk for falling in 2007 and later worked with a New York hospital system to further enhance it. Now nurses calculate fall risk, and it can link to preventative actions to reduce falls like moving medication lower or scheduling bathroom breaks. They also display fall risk warnings for the patients to see and have seen fewer falls when patients are also more aware of their own risks.

  3. Surgical mistakes: Tools such as the patient risk calculator developed by the American College of Surgeons or the University of Florida's artificial intelligence-powered system called MySurgeryRisk aim to better prepare surgeons and predict which patients might need more specialized care or who could be at higher risk for complications related to surgery.

  4. Stopping infections: Implementing use of a quality and safety dashboard that works with electronic medical records shows clinicians in real time issues that may need to be addressed to prevent infections, such as for central lines and urinary catheters.

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