There is no denying that we live in a modern world in which technology is constantly changing. If you are like most people, you use technology every day—from your cell phone to your computer. Technology seems to be advancing every day and transforming the way people live and work. Although there are many benefits to these advances, technology has its disadvantages as well.
Take the medical field, for example. Technological improvements have greatly impacted healthcare by helping researchers gather information, allowing doctors to better communicate with their patients, and providing new ways to practice medicine. However, technology has also caused unnecessary patient injuries and fatalities.
In this article, we will take a closer look at the positives and negatives of technology used in the practice of medicine. More specifically, this article will focus on how automated technology used to administer drugs has impacted patient care.
Hospitals and Technology
Medication errors occur in hospitals on a regular basis—from pharmacists not diluting a concentrated solution to nurses miscalculating a dosage. Unfortunately, innocent patients’ lives have been negatively affected, and many people have suffered needless injuries, additional surgeries, and even death as a result of mistakes made in the administration of medication. This is why most hospitals have turned to using computers and other technological innovations to help improve patient safety.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Automated Technology in Hospitals
There is no doubt that technological advancements have made life easier for doctors and hospital staffs. In most cases, these innovations have also made hospitals safer for patients. Some advantages of administering medication to patients through an automated system include:
- Simplifying the process. When computer-generated software is used to order medicine, it saves nurses and pharmacists time and eliminates the possibility of incorrectly reading doctors’ handwritten orders. Also, computerized software can check for medication orders that conflict with a patient’s allergies and alert a pharmacist.
- Reducing the medication error rate. Because technology has revolutionized the way nurses administer medication, it has helped reduce medication errors. For example, many smart pumps can check a nurse’s program settings against the hospital’s guidelines and patient records to help alert a nurse to a potential drug error—preventing many medication mistakes before they even happen.
However, there are also problems posed by these new systems, including:
- Staff may lack training on computerized programs. Some staff members might not be computer literate and may need extensive training in order to know how to program automated dispensing machines correctly. When hospital staff members aren’t property trained on the use of technology as it relates to infusion devices, a patient may receive the wrong medicine or wrong dose at the wrong time—all key elements to a patient’s safety.
- Drug dispensing machines may be programed incorrectly. Many patients in hospitals are receiving morphine drips, heparin drips, and other medicine drips through computerized IVs. While these automated systems have helped decrease the high volume of medication errors in hospitals, they are not foolproof. This is because intelligent pumps and IVs are programmed by humans. So if a nurse is in a hurry to give a patient a drug and programs the wrong dose into the computerized system, the medication error will occur due to the programming error. Also, if a nurse doesn’t set up the technology correctly, patients won’t get the drugs they are supposed to be receiving. This is a huge concern for diabetics and other patients who need their medications. As a result, critical mistakes made by hospital workers can seriously impact patients’ overall health.
- Administration of drugs through machines may lead to death. After surgery, many patients are given morphine drips intravenously to help reduce pain. Unfortunately, if a hospital staff member programs the wrong dose of drug and an overdose is given, a patient can have difficulty breathing. In fact, a patient may stop breathing and die. Sadly, critical mistakes made by hospital workers have resulted in unnecessary fatalities.
The fact is that humans who use technology in hospitals can and do make mistakes that result in significant injuries and death. If you or a loved one suffered the adverse effects of a medication error in a hospital, you more than likely have a medical malpractice claim for your injuries and losses. If you are wondering if you have a valid medical malpractice case, you should request a free copy of our book, Virginia Medical Negligence: What You Need to Know About Medical Malpractice in Virginia.