I read an interesting study a while back. It found the more we rely on computers and cellphones, the less capable our own brains become.
Case in point: Who remembers phone numbers anymore?
I can STILL recite all the phone numbers of my childhood friends from way back when. But I couldn’t tell you anyone’s number today if you paid me.
When I want to call someone, I just click on their name.
At least the only risk of dialing the wrong number is an awkward phone call. In the hospital, LIVES are the line.
Because everyone in the hospital… from the newest residents to long-time ER veterans… relies on one top expert to help them make some of the most critical life and death decisions.
He’s the most important “doctor” in the hospital. But “HE” is a computer. It’s supposed to recommend safe and accurate prescriptions and catch potentially dangerous interactions, overdoses, and other problems.
But it turns out they maybe shouldn’t even rely on it to order a sandwich. Because it MISSES potentially DEADLY drug mistakes a third of the time.
How you could get an OVERDOSE in a hospital
Right now, more than 100 Americans die EVERY DAY from drug mistakes. Electronic health records were supposed to make things better, safer, and more efficient to SAVE those lives.
With a computer, an exhausted doc at the end of a long shift could no longer write a bad prescription for the wrong drug or an incorrect dose. The machine, they said, would catch it and prevent it.
Except, as the new study shows, the system often doesn’t catch those mistakes. And that can have tragic consequences for some of us that are the most vulnerable.
The scientists used the real-world systems that hospitals rely on to create fake patient profiles and medical histories. They then deliberately fed it dangerous prescription orders to see what happened.
And what happened was a drug mistakes disaster.
In one case – based on a real-world incident – they ordered a blood thinner for an elderly woman already on the drugs. That led to a dangerously high dose that the computer should’ve caught and stopped.
It didn’t. And in this scenario, the patient died.
Hospital computers allow DANGEROUS drug mistakes
The most outrageous part of this finding is not just that drug mistakes happen at all. It’s that they KEEP happening. Researchers ran this same study a few years back, and the computer was failing then too.
In that 2009 study, it failed to spot drug mistakes 46 percent of the time. That should’ve led to MAJOR improvements – or maybe even an all-new system.
Instead, it’s led to only a little improvement with the computer missing the drug mistakes just 33 percent of the time now. It’s unacceptable.
Obviously we can’t rely on the computer to keep us safe. So it’s up to our loved ones and us to do it instead.
If you’re in a hospital and awake and aware, question all the meds you’re on and make them double-check for doses, interactions, and allergies.
And if you’re not, make sure you always have a loved one appointed who can keep an eye on things for you.
The time to have those conversations is now, while you’re still home. Because as the new study shows, if you wait until you’re in the hospital… you may have waited too long.