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Computers do not fully prevent medical errors

Every time one seeks medical care, they put their life in the hands of their doctors, nurses and other health care professionals. While a majority of medical professionals in Louisiana take this very seriously, a number of mistakes are still made. These mistakes can lead to bad outcomes.

In fact, research says that medical errors are third-highest cause of death in the United States. In 2015, the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that 5 percent of hospital patients suffer harm as a result of medications. Nearly half of these were found to be preventable.

With so many lives at risk, experts are doing everything they can to prevent these kinds of errors from occurring in the future. The Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit organization that rates hospitals on patient safety, conducted a survey of 1,800 hospitals. The survey shows that a majority of hospitals have implemented a computer-based system to ensure that patients are given the correct medications. However, the survey also shows that these systems are not fool-proof when it comes to catching medical errors.

Leapfrog found that 40 percent of potentially harmful medication orders were not noted as dangerous by the computer-based systems. These orders could have given patients unsafe drug prescriptions. It is also possible that a patient could be given the wrong dosage based on various factors about the patient, such as their size or medical history. A significant percentage of these medication errors, 13 percent, could have led to patient fatalities.

Nonetheless, experts say that many of these errors do not result in harm to the patients. Many hospitals have additional safeguards to help catch mistakes before the patient is affected. Technology can help detect medical errors, but no system is perfect. Health care professionals need to adhere to medical standards and ensure that their patients get the best care possible.

Source: KHN.org, "Hospital Software Often Doesn't Flag Unsafe Drug Prescriptions," accessed on April 7, 2016

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