how telemedicine can help combat medication errors

One of the more significant advancements in modern medicine over the last decade wasn’t created in a laboratory and wasn’t designed to cure any type of illness. Rather, it was designed to improve patient care by enhancing the communication abilities of emergency room physicians and critical care specialists.

The advancement in question is referred to as “telemedicine,” which is essentially a system in which physicians and patients, who are often located hundreds or even thousands of miles apart, consult with one another both visually and audibly via a high-speed Internet connection and sophisticated camera system.

Interestingly, a group of researchers affiliated with the University of California, Davis recently conducted a study to determine the extent to which telemedicine could help reduce the rate of prescription errors among pediatric patients in rural hospitals, a setting that arguably doesn’t treat very many of these types of patients each year.

The study was constructed in such a manner that emergency room physicians working at eight rural hospitals in Northern California were given access to a video conferencing unit from 2003 to 2009. Here, the video conferencing unit enabled them to consult with a pediatric critical care specialist whenever they felt it necessary.

The researchers looked at data on 234 children who reported to these eight hospitals with serious illnesses or injuries during the applicable timeframe. The emergency room physicians opted not to ask for help for 76 of the pediatric patients, opted for a phone consultation with a specialist for 85 of the pediatric patients and used the telemedicine system for 73 of the pediatric patients.

What the researchers discovered was truly remarkable.

To be continued …

While it seems unfathomable, medication errors can and do occur with alarming frequency. When they do and a patient suffers unnecessarily, someone must be held accountable.

Source: MedCity News, “Telemedicine consults at rural ERs helps prevent prescription errors,” Genevra Pittman, Nov. 25, 2013

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