The Use of Health Information Technology to Improve Quality and Increase Safety

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Technology

Abstract

The need of incorporating effective health information technology that can track down essential clinical processes and outcomes cannot be ignored. The revolution of technology has both positive and negative impact on the quality and safety of healthcare delivery. These technologies offer improved quality care through cost effective retrieval and sharing of patient’s health information thereby addressing the problem of medical error associated with quality and safety of healthcare delivery. However, various institutions are still adamant on adopting such technologies due to the belief that healthcare information technologies are expensive and difficult to implement as their return on investment cannot be effectively determined. This write up explains how computerized physician order entry (CPOE) technology could be used in addressing medical error reporting challenge. It also evaluates the possible outcomes of the implementation of  this information technology, and pointing out stakeholders concerns which might arise from implementing the technology. Moreover, it highlights how the return on the investment could be determined.

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Introduction

As pointed out by Conway & Clancy (2009), medical error reporting is a challenge that has adversely affected the quality and safety of health care delivery. It is a preventable event which may result into inappropriate medical use thereby harming the patient. They note that, failure by healthcare professionals to effectively prescribe, transcribe, dispense, administer, monitor, and measure the patient’s healthcare information raises a lot of concerns on the escalating cost and quality of health care being delivered. Ward, Spragens & Smithson (2006), thus believe that improving patients’ safety in the hospital through incorporating effective health information technology can scale up the quality of health care being delivered. This write up thus, explains how computerized physician order entry (CPOE) technology could be used in addressing medical error reporting challenge. It also evaluates the possible outcomes of  implementing this information technology while also pointing out to some of the stakeholders concerns which might arise from implementing the technology. Moreover, it highlights how the return on the investment could be determined.

Evaluating Health Information Technology

According to Anderson, Ramanujam & Hensel (2006), the research conducted by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) showed that there were reported cases between 44,000 and 98,000 of death which mainly occurred due to medical errors reporting. They note that these medical errors ranged from prescription errors to medication errors. Therefore, to address this concern, they noted the need to develop effective health care information technology, that would reduce medication errors by deploying standardized health care reporting of necessary data. Of these technologies, computerized physician order entry (CPOE) has been considered an effective health care information technology which can help in addressing the challenge of providing quality and timely medical aid.

As pointed out by Devine, et.al (2010), CPOE has been projected through medical practice as a basic system which has improved patient’s safety especially by reducing prominent medication errors, and even advancing the drug events. Based on the pretest-post-test study, CPOE has unlimited clinical decision capabilities, which gives an organizational action for healthcare professionals and remedy to the associated systemic problem. As Anderson, Ramanujam & Hensel (2006) observe, medication errors normally originate from poorly designed healthcare system and not due to negligence of healthcare provider. Therefore, by offering organizational change to patient safety, CPOE addresses medical error reporting menace.

However, as Wachter (2006) points out, implementing CPOE technology might result into unforeseen quality measurements which may affect the effective delivery of healthcare services. In addition, he notes that CPOE only focus on improving the performance of healthcare delivery through measured variables, thereby leaving out other essential variables. For instance, in rating the administration of vaccines through CPOE, the system leaves out the content of patient’s vaccination records. The physician will thus face uncertainty of patient’s past vaccination records, thereby failing to administer vaccines as required.

The implementation of CPOE, as Conway & Clancy (2009) observe, raises stakeholder’s concern on the continuous escalating health care cost and the quality of healthcare being delivered. They note that, while CPOE increases value-driven healthcare delivery through effective public reporting, uncoordinated patient’s outcomes can be produced by clinicians who are unable to incorporate better clinical practices due to available disparate pay-for-performance programs. This means that the return to investment for CPOE can be determined by analyzing the overall net savings and operating budget savings of healthcare institutions.

As Kaushal, et.al (2006) points out, by measuring the estimated benefits of CPOE system in Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), the technology was projected to result into $16.7 million net savings and a further $9.5 million savings on net operating cost. According to them, investing in CPOE will not only improve patient’s safety, but also help in saving money.

In conclusion, computerized physician order entry (CPOE) system is an effective health information technology, which can be used in addressing medical error reporting problem. It is imperative for healthcare institution to implement such a technology, whose benefits can be measured and investment returns determined.

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