Errors in the practice of medicine are not new. Apart from ‘human errors’ like misdiagnosis, incorrect medications, those caused by medical devices, uncoordinated care, illegible clinical documentation and many others cannot be ruled out. Sine medical errors can be classified into so many taxonomies it is difficult to measure the frequency of errors and its impact on patient care. Each of these errors are different enough that they merit special study and a systematic approach to reporting.
A few years ago the headline ‘NHS errors mean 8 patients die a day’1 grabbed the attention of readers’. Even for such an important topic, the mainstream media often gets coverage of these reports wrong by failing to convey the complexity surrounding t and pinpointing contributing factors. The reliability of cited statistics come into question as articles publish conflicting numbers. For example, IOM reports2 440,000 deaths per year due to medical errors. However, a recent study by BMJ reports3 almost half of that, at 250,000 deaths per year. Unfortunately, some of these reports have been challenged4 for their statistical inaccuracy and insufficiency of data. All this suggests that a real-world patient safety reporting is necessary. As efficient medical writers more than mere reporting we should move the focus from Errors to Safety strategies. Health IT can be thought of as one such safety strategy.
Digital Health is becoming one of the powerful tools for increasing patient safety whilst minimizing medical errors. As medical writers we can:
- Gather stories of instances of medical errors from original sources that can help guide healthcare providers to examine the causes and consequences of such errors.
- Suggest actionable advice through scientifically curated content and recommend digital health tools to combat medical errors.
- Publish information about how to use different electronic devices and digital workflows that can help reduce medical errors.
- As writers we can be active on on-line Health IT community hubs and help readers brainstorm strategies that help to reduce medical errors.
- To make our story more effective as writers we can work closely with Hospitals and their Health IT vendors to understand how they work towards updating their systems to meet the interoperability requirements. Such original stories can inspire readers and ring a bell on steps that they can possibly adopt to reduce medical errors.
- Publish educational articles on open source tools that improve patient safety
- Gather success stories of health facilities that have significantly reduced medical errors in Medication management using IT systems.
- For instance providing in-depth analysis on the impact of clinical decision support systems like CPOE, Electronic medication reconciliation to reduce ADR, automated transcription & dispensing and bar coding in medication management.
- As health IT experts we must remember that despite using Health IT tools, medication errors can still happen. However as writers our focus should be on the ‘Why’ and ‘How’ of the problem rather than the ‘Who’. The crux is to write stories and blog posts that inspire readers on eliminating medical errors and not just reporting them.