Celebrating Patient Safety Awareness Week with Interoperability


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This week is the National Patient Safety Forum’s “Patient Safety Awareness Week,” an annual education and awareness campaign for healthcare safety. This year’s theme is “Navigate Your Health…Safely.” A patient’s health journey often starts with diagnosis, but experts estimate that up to one in every 10 diagnoses is wrong, delayed, or missed completely and that, collectively, diagnostic errors may account for 40,000-80,000 deaths per year in the U.S.

Interoperability, how medical device and electronic health systems communicate with each other, could help significantly reduce diagnostic errors. At West Health, we have studied how to increase safety for patients by enabling an interoperable healthcare system. In fact, in our analysis we found the following:

  • Medical errors result in as many as three million preventable adverse events each year, driving as much as $17 billion in excess annual medical costs and as many as 98,000 deaths per year.
    Several of the most common causes of medical errors can be substantially addressed by improved medical device interoperability, including drug errors and failure to prevent injury (12 percent).
    Diagnostic errors result from a variety of root causes, such as a failure to account for symptoms, order appropriate tests and consider all relevant diagnoses.
    Medical device interoperability can reduce such errors by making symptom readings available in real time and pushing test results to a care provider in a timely and clear manner.

Overall, our analysis suggests that the lack of medical device interoperability costs the U.S. health system more than $30 billion a year, and last year, in conjunction with the Gary and Mary West Foundation, we helped launch the Center for Medical Interoperability to help drive interoperability to improve patient safety and lower costs.

Last month, the West Health Institute and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) co-hosted HCI-DC 2014: Igniting an Interoperable Health Care System, a conference designed to catalyze action and identify the greatest opportunities for advancing medical interoperability.

Dan Munro, a collaborator at Forbes.com, wrote a post this week about Malcolm Gladwell’s keynote address at HCI-DC, where you can learn more about Gladwell’s interesting take on interoperability. We hope you take a few moments to read this overview, and encourage you to view the videos from the stage at HCI-DC here.

As you can see, we view interoperability as intrinsically tied to patient safety, and are excited to continue working towards the goal of connected and coordinated healthcare. We encourage you to take part in the conversation about how interoperability plays a role in a safer and smarter healthcare system as we all recognize Patient Safety Awareness Week.