Patient Safety and Automation
Preventable injuries or illnesses can cause discomfort, suffering or even mortality in patients. Hospital infections, allergic reactions, even bedsores can negatively impact a patient's treatment and experience in a number of ways. This time, we'll take a look at how automation can help tackle these issues and ensure patient safety.
A large hospital usually runs on through shifts a day. That's three sets of nurses, ward boys, servers and duty doctors dealing with each patient. In most Indian hospitals, these multiple caregivers rarely have access to complete, up-to-the-minute information on patients. Typically, most of the information about each case is entrusted to the individual doctor's memory, with specific instructions passed on to nurses by word of mouth. When the shift changes, it's up to the luck of the draw whether these orders are passed on to the incoming duty staff.
As a result, it's almost impossible to make sure that vital information on each patient is shared, or even gathered. This can have a far-reaching impact, beyond the initial impact of any occurrence. For example suppose a patient suffers a skin tear while being shifted to a new room. In itself this is a small matter. However, if the wound later becomes infected and required treatment, the doctor's next concern would be to find out how the patient was wounded - something that can be recorded and looked up easily with a good record system.
Allergy information is rarely gathered in Indian hospitals. Even in scenarios where this information is taken down by the doctor, there's no assurance that nurses who may have to administer emergency medication, or housekeeping staff and food servers will have access to this information, short of actually going to each doctor's office and reading through all their case notes on each patients.
Or take the issue of bedsores. Simple enough to prevent, in theory, but bedridden patients have to be shifted between different positions regularly and powdered frequently. Without a centralized system of record keeping and sharing, even such a simple procedure can be disrupted. All it takes is a doctor's visit, or guests, and a shift changing without the nursing staff having time to shift and powder the patient. If this information is not shared with the next shift, it could take a long time before the patient is attended to for bedsores again. With shifts stretching up to 8 hours, this could make all the difference between a comfortable, satisfied patient and an agonized victim of painful sores.
Proper recordkeeping also allows hospitals to identify and trace recurring infections in sections of the hospital. These can then be tracked to their source - poor sanitation, a negligent staff member, or improper monitoring of guests - and nipped in the bud. Similarly, the various staff members and visitors who visit patients can be alerted to potential risks, especially to elderly visitors or children.
In a hospital that has implemented, and is fully utilizing a Hospital Information System and Electronic Medical Records, all this recordkeeping is automated. Hospital staffs are provided with exhaustive information forms that are filled in at the onset, ensuring that possibly crucial details such as allergies or past treatments are not omitted. Doctors, nursing staff and other caregivers can enter any incidents and observations regarding each patient into a centralized system that can be accessed by anyone who is involved in the case. This considerably reduces the potential for human error and oversight.
With recordkeeping and sharing automated, doctors are relieved of the burden of keeping a complete record of each case, often in handwritten records or even trusting to memory, and can devote more time to finding better cures and treatments, with all the information they need on each patient at their fingertips. It's easier for doctors or healthcare institutions to collaborate with each other by sharing electronic records, and it becomes simple for the hospital to share information with the patient, or with other hospitals. Properly used, automation is much more than a handy way to streamline billing - it makes real contributions to patient health and safety, increasing the effectiveness of treatment provided by the hospital.
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This content may have been developed with IBM funding. Regardless, this work represents the view of the author and does not necessarily represent the view of IBM. Although the content may utilize publicly available material from various sources, including IBM, it does not necessarily reflect the positions of such sources on the issues addressed in this content.