Researchers Offer Way To Classify Health IT-Related Medical Errors

iHealthBeat | Two Texas researchers recently published an analysis in the Archives of Internal Medicine outlining a scheme for categorizing health IT-related medical errors and suggesting possible fixes, InformationWeek reports (Terry, InformationWeek, 7/26).

About the Analysis

The two researchers are Dean Sittig, a professor of biomedical informatics at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center, and Hardeep Singh, an assistant professor of medicine at the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Baylor College of Medicine.

Their analysis — titled, “Defining Health Information Technology-Related Errors: New Developments Since ‘To Err is Human'” — describes the health IT-related patient safety issues that have emerged since the Institute of Medicine’s 1999 study on medical errors (Conn, Modern Healthcare, 7/25).

In the four-page article, Sittig and Singh write that health IT-related medical errors, “or the decisions that result from them, significantly increase the risks of adverse events and patient harm.”

Sittig noted that such errors can cause significant problems in a short period of time because health IT malfunctions can affect an entire hospital or health system (InformationWeek, 7/26).

Classification System

The analysis identifies 19 types of health IT-related medical errors based on a literature review and the authors’ knowledge. It also lists eight categories of situations that could lead to such errors and provides examples of preventive measures to reduce the likelihood of the mistakes.

According to the researchers, health IT problems that could lead to medical errors include:
■Hardware or software flaws;
■The inability of a software system to accurately measure certain functions (Modern Healthcare, 7/25);
■A lack of interoperability between two health IT systems; and
■Slow transitions between paper and electronic health records (InformationWeek, 7/26).

Sittig said the eight categories could be used as a framework to establish an error-reporting program for health IT systems. He added that if such a system were developed, users of health IT systems should have access to the error reports (Modern Healthcare, 7/25).


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