May 2016

Combating Medical Errors with Interoperability

According to the CDC, cancer and heart disease rank among the top killers in the United States. Each was responsible for 600,000 deaths in 2014 alone. Some researchers now contend that in reality, medical errors should rank third on the list, reinforcing why health information exchange and patient data access are literally life threatening issues today.

Per the analysis, led by Johns Hopkins Medicine surgeon Dr. Martin Makary, medical errors are responsible for as many as 250,000 deaths per year – a staggering number in terms of preventable outcomes. The problem is so significant that researchers called on the CDC to take action in an open letter.

Medical errors are often associated with a providers’ misjudgment or an unfortunate accident, such as a misdiagnosis or surgical tool being left behind. Most don’t associate medical errors with a breakdown in communication or the failure to prevent an adverse drug interaction. But as was specifically noted in the open letter, medical errors absolutely include both an “error […] in coordination of care” and “a preventable adverse event.” In addition, Dr. Makary specifically calls for investment in “technology that reduces harmful and unwarranted variation in medical care.” Often, these errors can be reduced simply by ensuring that providers have access to a complete picture of their patients’ medication histories at the point of care.

When providers are connected to broader, more interoperable information networks, they have an opportunity to incorporate clinically relevant data into their records and care plans. Surescripts’ portfolio of Medication History services connects providers with the data they need from pharmacies and PBMs.   This closes information gaps around medications their patients are taking or have taken.

In fact, in 2014, the same year as this study, Surescripts delivered 764 million Medication Histories to care providers over our network, and the demand is only growing. The 2014 activity was an increase of 23 percent from the year prior, showing just how valuable and integral this information is to providers for improved care quality and patient safety.  Surescripts works with an expanding set of pharmacies and PBMs to inform their treatment and identify critical medications that may impact patient care. This information is safely and securely delivered to providers at the point of care.

Fatal errors stem from inadequate access to patient data, often because the right information was not available at the right time to the right person. The fact that 250,000 lives are lost each year due to medical errors -- in part because of a lack of information, including a patient’s medication history -- is a problem we can’t ignore. But it’s a problem that we can fix, and Medication History is just one way that data exchange and a connected health infrastructure are making an impact.

To learn more about Surescripts’ Medication History solutions, visit our product page or continue the conversation on Twitter or Facebook.

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