Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Most of us working at big hospitals are now using some sort of EMR (electronic medical record). I am only familiar with one of them, a product from the company, Cerner.
The complexity, layers upon layers of charting, and often, processes that don't make a whole lot of sense to the end-users, are actually setting the stage for more medical errors. Of course, the buyers of such products, and the sellers of the same, would like the public to think, that every step we take in the digital world, somehow makes their precious lives safer. Not so, and you know it.

Let's take a look at one of the biggest boondoggles, "medication reconciliation".

Reconcile Redundancy

The greater the complexity
The number of steps in an equation,
The more likely a random chance
To make a mistake on any occasion.

It's an engineering problem
Mathematical in a sense,
The more steps it takes to accomplish a thing
A greater opportunity for an offense.

And that is our state of art
In the realm of medication reporting,
The repetitive steps to reconcile
Redundant, reiterative, resorting.

Take a look at our typical patient
Age 62, Diabetic and over-weight,
He has high cholesterol and gout
And he's here, to learn his cardiac fate.

He has three doctors on tap
Primary, secondary and another,
Fourteen medications and 32 pills
All organized by his dear old mother,
Maybe I'm lucky and open the chart
Finding a medication recording,
Although, just how reliable that might be
Nonetheless, it is somewhat rewarding.

Hopefully, the guy is carrying a list
Otherwise, we're totally screwed,
Because I am supposed to record all the details
From this stressed-out, forgetful dude,
When did you take it last, what day, what time
How many milligrams, sir?
Muddled he looks, then he points at his mother
Saying, “I think you better ask her”.

But here comes the crux of the problem
And it really doesn't make any sense,
His home meds will be merged with his hospital drugs
Then we toss them all, over the fence,
Each time he goes to a procedure
Every time he comes back to recover,
We have to perform another reconcile
Like trying to save an old lover.

His fourteen meds, and today's seven drugs
Keep shifting around in the bag,
What are the odds that I'll make a mistake
And select the improper tag,
Pretty damn likely, I'm telling you
When a system is built, in this way,
How many times will I reconcile
Three times, and that's just today.

With all of the hype about Patient Safety Goals
We're battered and bludgeoned with these themes,
If a problem is “solved” with a complex solution
I tell you these are only pipe-dreams,
More problems created, more mistakes out there waiting
Software written and then sold, as the best,
But the engineers writing this nonsense
Are not the ones putting it to test.

So if they come after me, because I made a mistake
I'll point an accusing finger at Cerner,
And ultimately, the exemption that I will claim
Excuse me, I'm just a slow learner.


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