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Health IT infrastructure Gaps Create Patient Safety Risk

Health IT infrastructure gaps prevent organizations from effectively exchanging accurate information, putting patient safety at risk.

Lack of health IT infrastructure interoperability puts patients at risk.

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- Healthcare organizations are faced with roadblocks when it comes to accurately retrieving complete patient data. Many of these obstacles can be traced back to an organization’s health IT infrastructure, interoperability, and how successfully different IT systems work together.

A recent College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) survey focused on the medication reconciliation gap and how health IT infrastructure systems play a significant role in patient safety.

The survey found that 75 percent of healthcare organizations polled worry about medication history data being incomplete or inaccurate.

“Technology alone isn't enough; hospitals need true partnerships with their technology providers to effectively implement new processes and close any existing gaps around driving improved medication reconciliation and patient safety,” CHIME authors stated.

Medication reconciliation is a list of medications a patient is taking that includes details such as the drug name, dosage and frequency. Patients visiting multiple clinicians for a medical condition need this information to be accurate no matter where they are. That way, the clinician has a better understanding of the patient’s medication history and can give the patient the correct medication that will not conflict with other existing medications.

Lack of interoperability among EHRs and other healthcare applications can result in incomplete or incorrect medication reconciliation.

The survey outlined several other factors that result in medication reconciliation challenges, such as inconsistent practices across departments and complex workflows. However, many of these challenges can be solved by implementing technology that promotes standard practices and streamlined workflows. 

Many healthcare organizations are susceptible to adverse drug events (ADEs), which can cost up to $5.6 million a year, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

“Medication reconciliation efforts are only as good as the data available, the processes in place and the technology to seamlessly connect it all," DrFirst President G. Cameron Deemer said in a statement.

The CHIME survey found that healthcare CTOs are more involved with solving medication reconciliation efforts and are focusing on identifying proven technologies to help reduce the risk of ADEs.

Sixty percent of those surveyed observed inconsistent practices across departments. Inconsistent practices can be the result of interoperability issues among the applications used by different departments that need to share patient data.

Forty-eight present of respondents said that patients were being released from the hospital with an incorrect medication list. Forty-six percent said that they have trouble importing external medical history from desperate health IT systems.

The lack of interoperability results in systems that are incapable of exchanging information consistently. These missing capabilities cause inaccuracies in patient data.

Fifty-three percent of respondents said they can’t access external medication history using data feeds integrated within their EHR, and 35 percent have no access to external medication history data feeds. Entities are still running into problems even with EHR tools in place that are meant to help solve external data retrieval issues.

The top three most important aspects of medication reconciliation programs all centered around technology. Survey respondents identified medication reconciliation best practices as:

  • Technology to enhance drug data stewardship
  • Technology for patient engagement and accountability
  • Additional data feeds to mitigate medication history gaps

“Overwhelmingly, hospitals see a significant role for technology in medication reconciliation efforts,” the survey stated. “Most hospital leaders surveyed said that their IT teams were highly involved with medication reconciliation efforts.”

Healthcare organizations are faced with disparate health IT systems that are not compatible when it comes to exchanging data within the organization or outside of it.

The survey suggested that entities create partnerships with technology providers to ensure all health IT systems are functioning correctly. CHIME also recommended that organizations keep a close eye on medication history gaps and implement best practices.

Organizations can better ensure patient safety when clinicians have access to all the information they need from all of their health IT data sources.


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