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Errors With Technology Could Put Patients' Lives at Risk

I’ve been tracking technological advances in the health care industry for a little while now and most of the trends seem really positive. Robotics in surgery, automated drug dispensers and electronic files seem to be integrating well into the hospital settings. Unfortunately, nothing and no one is perfect; an attention to detail is a vital part of being a medical assistant or a pharmacy technician student.

Reporters Judith Graham and Cynthia Dizikes wrote a disturbing story in the Los Angeles Times about how a pharmacy technician input the wrong information into the computer and a premature baby overdosed on sodium chloride. “When the nutritional fluids were administered to Genesis, a tiny baby born 16 weeks prematurely, the infant’s heart stopped, and he died, leaving behind parents stunned by grief.

“Although a series of other errors contributed to the tragedy, its origin — a piece of data entered inaccurately into a computer program — throws a spotlight on safety risks associated with medicine’s advance into the information age, a trend being pushed aggressively under health reform.”

“The federal government is aiding the shift with $23 billion in incentives to medical providers who buy electronic medical records or computerized systems that automate drug orders and other medical processes. The hope is that these technologies will enhance access to vast amounts of information tucked away in paper files and meaningfully improve medical care.

“Doctors should be able to see test results quickly and communicate more easily with each other, for example. And electronic safeguards can remind physicians about recommended medical practices or alert them to harmful interactions between medicines.

“Yet with these sizable potential benefits also come potential problems. Hospital computers may crash or software bugs jumble data, deleting information from computerized records or depositing it in the wrong place. Sometimes, computers spew forth a slew of disorganized data, and physicians can’t quickly find critical information about patients.”

Errors happen in every field and have a variety of different outcomes. Unfortunately when it comes to the medical field, many times it can mean the difference between life and death. Vendors of this equipment blame human error for the death of this newborn and not on computer malfunction.

As a pharmacy technician in the San Francisco Bay Area, it is vital to be accurate and thorough in your upcoming occupation. Check and recheck to make sure the information is correct.

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