In the realm of healthcare having well defined, clear, controlled, and consistent processes can mean the difference between success and failure. I was at the Hospital Accreditation Update Event yesterday, hosted by the Joint Commission, and the speaker was emphasizing the importance of having two unique identifiers per patient and the standard procedures for operation. He gave an example of two patients who were nearly identical. They had the same name, birthday, age, and ethnicity. Moreover, the patients were seeing the same doctor for the same problem. As the patients were older, both qualified for Medicare- and even the Medicare Account numbers were only different by one digit. The one major difference between the two patients is that one was at high risk for complete vision loss with the specific surgery and the other was not. To make a long story short, the wrong patient was operated on and left completely blind.
Because the particular hospital did not have the correct check marks in place to ensure that two unique identifiers were being used consistently throughout a defined, well structured operation approval process, the end result was a costly failure. Had the said hospital implemented a process automation solution, various approval check marks would have arisen as alerts and notifications to process participants and medical staff. Moreover, having the patients entered into the process automation system by their unique identifiers would have maintained identifier consistency throughout the process, ultimately ensuring that the right patient (without high risk) received the right treatment and surgery.
This is just one example of where process automation and improvement software can play a key role in patient safety. Other examples include:
- Recording and tracking patient allergens to ensure the proper prescriptions are given
- Alerts and notifications to remind medical staff to dispense patient medication at the correct time
- Patient scheduling and follow up visits to ensure timely treatment and monitor progress
- Patient reassessment alerts to medical staff to ensure the patients are being monitored and reevaluated for the treatment they've received and their overall status
Mary Katherine Strupe