The research analysts at Gartner just released a list of technology predictions for the coming years. One jumped out at us:
"Healthcare has historically underinvested in IT, however, this is changing. Gartner analysts predict that by 2009, healthcare investments in IT will increase by more than 50 percent, which could enable clinicians to reduce the level of preventable deaths by 50 percent by 2013."
According to an Institute of Medicine study, anywhere between 44,000 and 98,000 die each year in U.S. hospitals due to medical errors making them the fifth to eighth leading cause of death in the country. Additionally, medical errors, cost the U.S. health care system approximately $38 to 50 billion a year.
Sometimes it's necessary to put a human face to these overwhelming statistics, consider this tragic story...
A 21-year-old San Jose man died Aug. 29 at Kaiser Permanente's Santa Teresa Medical Center, three days after a physician injected him with the wrong medication.
Christopher Wibeto, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, was given the wrong chemotherapy drug on Aug. 26, a report by the California Department of Health Services determined.
Sadly and, unfortunately, ironically even the man running the Kaiser Permanente's network of hospitals has a personal experience with similar fate as the young San Jose man. From an op-ed that ran this week in the San Jose Mercury News penned by Permanente Medical Group CEO Robert Pearl:
"My father died two years in Florida from a medical error. He died in spite of having excellent doctors and dedicated nurses. He died because medical care has become incredibly complex and because as a nation we have not devoted enough attention to implementing electronic medical record systems and other methods to ensure patient safety."
"In my father's case, it was an error of omission -- the inability of his doctors to share a common electronic medical record. His doctors in Florida and New York, where he spent half the year respectively, all assumed he had received a necessary vaccine, one that all of them knew he needed, but ultimately one that he simply was never given."
BTW, there is a good amount of controversy over the estimate of preventable deaths. Not surprisingly physician groups claim the numbers are overblown, while others say that even the top-end of the IOM estimate misses the mark by more than 100,000 deaths a year.
For a well-researched opinion on the facts of medical errors and how technology can minimize them, we send you on our first Google Books result: