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    Enhancing Patient Safety through Digital Solutions

    Home Wellness Enhancing Patient Safety through Digital Solutions

    Background

    Millions are hurt or die yearly due to low-quality or unsafe healthcare. These injuries and deaths are entirely avoidable. Adverse incidents resulting from medical errors are the fourteenth leading cause of injury and death worldwide. That places them in the same tier as malaria and tuberculosis, which claim millions of lives every year. Globally, approximately 421 million people are hospitalized annually.

    On aggregate, one in every 10 of these hospitalizations end in an adverse event occasioned by poor healthcare. In addition to death, these adverse events wash away trust, which is a precious resource in healthcare. If patients do not have faith in medical systems, convincing them to stay proactive about their health and consult medical practitioners in good time becomes challenging.

    The financial implications of medical errors are far greater than the investment required to avoid them. In acknowledgment, stakeholders in the health sector are increasingly employing digital technologies to tackle patient safety issues. 

    Common Patient Safety Issues

    Patient safety emphasizes care through the reduction, reporting, prevention, and analysis of errors or other unwarranted harm that usually result in adverse events. Top patient safety issues include medication errors, clinic-acquired infections, falls, pressure ulcers, and treating the wrong patient. 

    Medication Errors

    Medication errors are familiar to nurses regardless of their practice area. Every nurse has the Five Rights of Medication Administration at their fingertips. Even so, errors still occur in busy units where nurses have several tasks to handle. Such errors include a nurse grabbing the wrong drug with a similar name, administering the wrong dose in emergencies, or matching a patient’s name to a different prescription. Although such errors are easily preventable, they still kill and hurt millions yearly. 

    Clinic-Acquired Infections

    Infections of surgical sites, pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and bloodstream infections are among the avoidable infections patients acquire from hospitals. Patients may get exposed to these infections if they are immunocompromised, on different antibiotics, or if they and their caregivers fail to follow proper handwashing and personal protective equipment (PPE) guidelines. 

    Falls

    Patients in care facilities and hospitals may be confused, weak, and on several medications. These medications could increase the need to use the restrooms. That, coupled with weakness and confusion, increases the risk of tripping and falling within the facility. 

    Pressure Ulcers

    Many admitted patients have trouble moving. Some also have fragile skin, complex ailment processes, and are inadequately nourished. These risk factors generally increase the likelihood of a patient developing pressure ulcers. With increased vigilance, nurses can significantly reduce the number of pressure ulcer cases. 

    Wrong Patient

    Ensuring one has the correct patient transcends medication errors. Many people care for a patient at different points in the care process. That could result in ordering the wrong patient products, drawing blood from the wrong patient for tests, or prematurely discharging a patient. Even worse, the wrong patient could be taken in for a surgical procedure. All these can be avoided by proper record-keeping and monitoring. 

    Other common patient safety issues today include drug shortages, clinical burnout, and health equity. Digital interventions are widely employed to address most of these patient safety issues. 

    Digital Solutions to the Problems

    Technology is revolutionizing the medical sector, helping to move it from the one-size-fits-all approach to a more real-time, customized way of healthcare management. Digital platforms and devices have increased the efficiency and accuracy of diagnoses, treatment, and overall healthcare delivery. They have also empowered patients to have more control over their health and make better decisions regarding it. In addition, digital solutions offer increased opportunities to facilitate early diagnosis and management of chronic illnesses away from traditional healthcare settings. 

    Through clinical trials, big biopharmaceutical firms can test the efficacy of different drugs as well as their side effects. Such trials give healthcare practitioners the vital information they need to prescribe drugs and treat different conditions. Today, several firms specialize in developing and running systems that help manage these trials, smoothening the process and improving outcomes. These systems integrate clinical trial site management software with other management tools to streamline the trial operations while helping site staff and stakeholders to stay compliant with international and local regulations.

    Besides clinical trials, digital solutions like sensors are being employed in monitoring patient metrics around the clock. That permits fast diagnosis and intervention. In the treatment phase, 3D printers have exhibited success in bettering surgical approaches through the formulation of joint and bone implants, organ models, and precision instruments.  Robots, too, are being used in surgeries to provide increased precision, flexibility, and visualization for surgeons. Procedures done using robots have been found to inflict less pain and have shorter recovery periods. In medical logistics, stakeholders are leveraging drones to collect samples, deliver vital treatments to remote locations, and offer emergency aid. 

    The Internet of Things is also being used to run closed-loop frameworks that communicate remotely with each other to make healthcare delivery faster, more accurate, and more efficient. With barcodes and electronic health management systems that include patient pictures, errors in diagnosis and treatment have significantly declined. 

    Conclusion

    Patient safety remains a top healthcare priority. Stakeholders in the medical sector are continually innovating to improve patient outcomes, and digital interventions have emerged as critical players in the patient safety domain. Despite the great strides made through healthcare technology, patient safety is a moving target and stakeholders must keep evolving to respond to emerging risks.

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    Aaron Smith
    Aaron Smith is an LA-based content strategist and consultant in support of STEM firms and medical practices. He covers industry developments and helps companies connect with clients. In his free time, Aaron enjoys swimming, swing dancing, and sci-fi novels.

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