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Interview Series: Dr. Halamka discusses how technology can improve patient safety

As part of our interview series with today’s thought leaders in patient safety, we spoke with John D. Halamka, MD, MS.

Dr. Halamka is Chief Information Officer of the CareGroup Health System, Chief Information Officer and Dean for Technology at Harvard Medical School, Chairman of the New England Health Electronic Data Interchange Network (NEHEN), CEO of MA-SHARE (the Regional Health Information Organization), Chair of the US Healthcare Information Technology Standards Panel (HITSP), and a practicing Emergency Physician.

If that sounds like a tremendous amount of responsibility, it is--in all, his work supports 3,000 doctors, 18,000 faculty and 3 million patients... not to mention his finding time to publish an informative and enlightening blog.

Q: How are the hospitals that you’re working with using technology to reduce errors and lower risk?

A: “Populate electronic medical records: Achieve 85% electronic clinical documentation by 2011 via consistent use of automated history and physicals, electronic progress notes, eForms and scanning technologies.

Medication Management: Achieve end to end electronic medication administration by 2009 through the consistent use of provider order entry in all inpatient areas, electronic prescribing in all ambulatory areas, medication reconciliation at each transition in the care process, and electronic medication administration records based on bar coded medications.

Training, education and competency: complete a new hospital policy requiring the consistent use of our EMR to manage problem lists, medication management, notes and ordering by July 2008.”

Q: Do you think technology (or tech innovations/solutions) has the potential to help hospitals improve patient safety, and why?

A: “Coordination of care among providers via e-Prescribing and use of electronic health records will ensure smooth handoffs, reducing medical error. Empowering the patient to be the stewards of their own data via personal health records will encourage doctor/patient shared decision making, transparency into the medical record including the correction of errors, and respect for patient privacy preferences when sharing data.”

Q: In your opinion, what are the “top actions/priorities” that will move the industry much closer to eradicating PMEs and HAIs?

A: "End to end electronic medication workflows including e-Prescribing, provider order entry, and electronic medication administration records.

100% electronic documentation including all outpatient and inpatient notes, diagnostic test results and images.

Decision support systems which enforce best practices including guidelines, protocols and care plans."

  • For Dr. Halamka's blog, please go here.
  • Is there a thought leader that you would like to see interviewed? Please email us here.
  • For all interviews with today's patient safety thought leaders, please go here.

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