How can healthcare technology reduce medication errors?

There are many benefits to electronic health records, and a lot of them involve reducing medical errors. While healthcare providers always strive to make sure that their patients have the best possible care, they are human and may end up making mistakes. These mistakes, particularly when they involve medications, can be dangerous or even deadly for patients. Thankfully, EHRs are designed to help reduce the chance that doctors will make errors regarding medications.

According to a recent article published by HealthcareIT News, medication errors are responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of patients each year, and many more experience adverse side effects from taking the wrong pills. The news source spoke to Patrick Hymel, M.D., co-founder and CEO of MedSnap, a company focused on the connection between healthcare technology and medication safety. Hymel explained more about the association between the two. 

EHRs and safer drugs
Hymel stated that the average Medicare patient sees about seven different healthcare providers, which is why it can be so difficult to ensure that that he or she has a completely full and accurate medication history. However, if there is a digital record that providers can share with one another which clearly details all of the medication that a patient is currently taking or has taken in the past, and for how long the individual was prescribed these pills, doctors will be able to make their decisions accordingly and reduce the chances of

Furthermore, it's not just doctors and nurses who can benefit from having an accurate medication record, but home care workers as well. Hymel explained that many home care workers need to review a patient's medication regimen at every visit. With an EHR, they will be able to see every drug a patient is on, even if it was only prescribed to him or her a few hours earlier. 

Also, Hylmel stated that many pharmacists want to have more communication with doctors, and healthcare technology will allow this to happen. Furthermore, it will allow them to see all of the medications a patient is on and better match his or her needs with what the pharmacy has in store, so that patients will always get the best possible pills to help improve their condition.

More on medication errors
The Mayo Clinic explained some of the top ways that medication errors are caused. Poor communication between healthcare providers is one of the most prominent reasons, as is insufficient communication between providers and patients. One of the main goals of EHRs is to enhance communication throughout the entire spectrum of the healthcare industry, which may also help reduce medication mistakes. 

Another major cause of medication errors are illegible prescriptions. This will no longer be an issue once healthcare providers adopt EHRs and e-prescribing tools, because they will no longer be hastily writing things down on a prescription pad only to have the notes get misinterpreted later. Instead, everything will be entered electronically and a doctor's handwriting will no longer matter. 

The Mayo Clinic added that patients need to provide doctors with the right information to reduce medication errors. This includes the names of all medications they are taking, any medications they are allergic to and whether they are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. If patients have access to their EHRs, they will be able to review them regularly to make sure that all the information is correct, and contact their doctors if anything has changed that should be recorded. For example, a patient may become pregnant and need to inform all of the healthcare providers she has, not just her obstetrician. Simply updating an EHR will let all of her providers know this important change to her health.