Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Word Searches Can Help Locate Medical Errors Quicker Than Codes

A new study conducted by researchers at the Department of Veterans Affairs, has found that using simple text searches, like the ones that people use on Google, in electronic medical records systems could help identify medical errors quicker than the use of codes.

The researchers analyzed patient records at six Department of Veterans’ Affairs medical centers. They found that they were able to turn up at least 12 times as many cases of pneumonia and twice as many cases of kidney failure and severe blood infections simply by using single word searches, instead of using billing codes. These billing codes are used for reimbursement, and are also used as ratings for quality of care. Billing codes have been promoted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to evaluate the quality of care at American hospitals.

The researchers were so impressed with the results of the study that they now recommend configuring electronic medical record systems to enable text searches. They believe that this would allow hospitals to keep patients safer more easily than the use of traditional billing codes. Billing codes were devised for administrative purposes, and may not be best suited for patient safety objectives. Searches for English text were found to be more accurate and reliable in identifying medical errors.

Text searching is not available on all electronic medical record systems. However, some manufacturers have introduced semantic search in their systems. These systems allow doctors to search for patient records based on medical keywords.

However, Arizona medical malpractice lawyers would not recommend an immediate overhaul of the current medical record systems to include text searches. Health care professionals need to be trained to use text searches effectively in order to locate medical errors. Medical record systems in many hospitals are still fairly new, and need to stabilize.

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