Health Information Interoperability Can Prevent Medical Errors

Recent research from Johns Hopkins, once again identified medical errors as the third leading cause of death in the US. A patient is injured by a preventable medical error every 5 seconds in this country. But what is being done about it?

Since the original report in 1999 by the Institute of Medicine, “To Err is Human” only modest inroads have been made. Diagnostic errors, medication errors, discharge errors, monitoring and communication errors are abundant in the US healthcare system, accidentally killing infants, children and adults.

Because the cause of death for medical errors can be 100% avoided it is incumbent upon policy makers and government agencies to put an end to this killer by removing the errors associated with care delivery. If ever there was a reason to establish interoperability, this is it.
Establishing a fundamental set of metrics around interoperability and its impact on death from medical errors is within reach. Making the right information available at the right time is no longer a technical hurdle, but one associated with the institutional control of data and lack of a concerted effort to make policy changes that encourage organizations to implement business and technology best practices that avoid common errors that lead to death.

Federal health agencies have worked on this problem previously but have they had a measurable impact on medical error reduction or is it just wallpaper policy meant to quell the citizenry?

An initiative that focuses on interoperability as a means to lower medical errors and improve coordination between the Federal health agencies is greatly needed. We need to be able to monitor interoperability programs and harness next generation technologies that propel us toward zero medical errors. The innovation exists it is now a matter of political will and smart policies.

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