how telemedicine can help combat medication errors ii

Last time, our blog discussed how a group of researchers 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.

For those unfamiliar with the idea of telemedicine, it 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.

As part of the study, emergency room physicians working at eight rural hospitals in Northern California were given access to a video conferencing unit from 2003 to 2009, which enabled them to consult with a pediatric critical care specialist whenever they felt it necessary. Some physicians opted to use the system, others elected simply to call the specialist, while others declined consults with the specialists altogether.

What did the researchers discover?

The researchers discovered the following concerning the rate of prescription errors among the 72 percent of pediatric patients given at least one medication:

  • Emergency physicians who used the telemedicine system prescribed 146 medications with only five prescription errors (wrong drug, wrong dose, etc.).
  • Emergency physicians who used a phone consultation with a specialist prescribed 167 medications with 18 prescription errors. 
  • Emergency physicians who used no assistance prescribed 128 medications with 16 prescription errors.

Why then is telemedicine so effective in these types of situations?

“The amount of information that you can gather in a telemedicine consultation is typically much richer than what you can gather from a telephone conversation,” said one expert of telemedicine from the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. “Also, the level of interaction with the remote care team widens because you’re not talking with a single person on the other side — you can interact with the remote physician or physicians and nursing staff, support staff and the patient and family themselves.”

The researchers have indicated that they will continue to explore the efficacy of telemedicine in other contexts, including whether its hefty price tag — $2,000 per consultation — is perhaps offset by other costs (i.e., having to airlift patients to larger hospitals).

If you or a family member has been victimized by a medication error, remember that you do have rights. An experienced attorney can protect these rights and help secure the justice you need.

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

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