Eye On Patient Safety - InformationWeek

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Eye On Patient Safety

Despite the advances that innovative health-care companies have made using business technology, the industry still lags in its adoption of patient-safety technologies such as drug bar-code systems and computerized physician order-entry systems, according to a survey by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society. The survey of 247 health-care executives, sponsored by drug distributor and health-care IT systems provider McKesson Corp., found that lack of funding for patient-safety technology is the biggest reason for the slow adoption, a challenge 79% of respondents say they face. The second-biggest factor, cited by 45%, is physician resistance to new systems. Only 21% of the organizations surveyed have deployed computerized physician order-entry technology, and only 19% have implemented bar-code systems. On the more positive side, 55% have deployed automated drug cabinets, which track drugs coming in and going out of a facility, and provide Web-based access to patient information.

Other factors also play a part in the lack of IT being applied to patient-safety programs. While 66% of survey respondents say they have at least five departments represented on their patient-safety committees, only 41% have a representative from their IT organizations participating in the group. "That was one of the biggest surprises in the survey findings," a McKesson spokesman says.

The Institute of Medicine in a 1999 report estimated that drug errors adversely affect tens of thousands of patients each year. The Food and Drug Administration earlier this year proposed that drug companies begin putting bar codes on single-unit doses of medications dispensed in hospitals and other care settings, a move that's expected to prompt more health-care companies to deploy bar-code systems at the bedside.

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