Patient safety threatened by suboptimal medical informatics implementation at VA hospitals

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A study of healthcare IT implementation at seven Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals, specifically that of medical informatics systems, has revealed that suboptimal integration of such technology could place patients at risk, reports Information Week.

To arrive at their conclusions, researchers Joanne Spetz, James Burgess and Ciaran Phibbs interviewed personnel working in VA healthcare facilities, including nurses, pharmacists, physicians, healthcare IT staff members and managers.

A lack of adequate planning and project management was revealed to be a significant threat to the security of patient health information and safety. The study was published in the American Journal of Managed Care, and examined medical informatics systems at various VA hospitals in relation to the organization’s computerized patient record system (CPRS) and bar code medication administration (BCMA) systems.

In addition to a lack of proper planning, training personnel to use medical informatics systems and other healthcare IT networks effectively was also identified as an area in need of improvement.

Without sufficient project management, the integration of medical informatics systems was shown to increase the frequency of network connection problems, which potentially jeopardized the safety of patients receiving care at these facilities.

“The take-home lesson is that if you take a complex project and are not very careful, you can screw it up, and that can have an impact on patient safety,” Peter Kilbridge, senior healthcare IT research director for The Advisory Board Co., told the news source. “So expect the unintended consequences and plan for resolving them in an above-board, candid, and productive process.”

The VA is currently involved in a large scale healthcare IT initiative to centralize the medical informatics systems in use throughout its facilities.

According to ExecutiveGov, the VA awarded a contract worth more than $80 million to Harris Corporation last month to integrate its clinical informatics networks with the medical records maintained by the Pentagon.