New Software Helps Reduce Emergency Room Errors

Legal Articles | January 29, 2013

The fast-paced environment of an emergency room creates situations in which errors are more likely to happen than in the rest of the hospital. Noise, an influx of patients exceeding the hospital’s resources, lack of communication and other factors can cause mistakes, including medication errors, treatment errors and discharge errors. Many of these errors are insignificant and go unnoticed, but emergency room errors can have serious repercussions ranging from discomfort to fatality.

Hospitals Seek to Minimize Emergency Room Errors Through Software Advances

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics’ 2010 report on emergency medical care in the hospital setting, about 62 percent of emergency room visits include use of electronic medical records during the patient care and diagnosis process. This suggests that computerized information is becoming a stronger presence in the health care environment, and some emergency room processes can be simplified by further use of these tools.

According to the report, during about 75 percent of emergency room visits, medications were either given or prescribed. This is significant, because many emergency room errors relate to medications. Common drugs administered during 2007 included painkillers, antibiotics, tetanus shots, hydrocodone, morphine, acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Some of the most common diagnostic tests performed include blood tests, X-rays and heart tests. Errors made during diagnostic tests, whether during the test itself or during the analysis of test results, can cause problems such as delayed diagnosis.

EHR Intelligence, an industry publication analyzing trends in emergency health care, reported in November 2012 that new software tools may be able to help emergency rooms reduce errors, especially medication errors, but also in diagnostic procedures. For example, a software tool called computerized prescriber order entry, or CPOE, may help health care professionals avoid errors when writing prescriptions. This software helps prevent providers from mixing up drug names, and because it allows prescriptions to be entered electronically, messy handwriting cannot cause confusion. This software also allows doctors, physician’s assistants and some nurses to look up drug information before writing a prescription. Important data like drug interactions and complications are available through this tool, which can be accessed on a laptop or tablet. This tool also prompts the physician to consider certain tests based on the patient’s diagnosis. In the busy ER environment, this sort of support can help ensure that patients get adequate care and prevent personal injury.

Finding Legal Help After an Emergency Room Error

Illinois patients may need to seek legal advice if they have been injured due to an emergency room error. What types of safeguards a hospital has taken to prevent emergency room errors can be an important factor in hospital personal injury cases.