Kariuki: How technology can tame deadly medical errors


Kariuki: How technology can tame deadly medical errors
Kenyatta National Hospital

In Summary

Human beings are highly susceptible to cognitive biases that adversely affect our ability to solve problems accurately and reliably. A report on medical errors from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 2000 discovered that 44, 000 to 98, 000 deaths were occurring annually in US hospitals as a result of medical errors. Event-reporting systems are critical tools that would enable health care professionals to rightfully identify a patient.

You might be tempted to think that this rebukeable medical error by Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) on conducting a brain surgery on the wrong patient is unique to Kenya, you might be wrong.

A report on medical errors from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 2000 discovered that 44, 000 to 98, 000 deaths were occurring annually in US hospitals as a result of medical errors. That ranked the lethality of US hospitals ahead of motor vehicle accidents, breast cancer, and AIDS at that time.

What is even worse is that medial errors are vastly under reported primarily because of liability concerns but the KNH case was itself a big mistake that “should not have come out to the public”.

Human beings are highly susceptible to cognitive biases that adversely affect our ability to solve problems accurately and reliably. We also exhibit significant limitations in our working memory that makes us prone to error due to factors such as distraction, stress and sleep deprivation.

In this regard, event-reporting systems are critical tools that would enable health care professionals to rightfully identify a patient. One such technology that is being used in first world countries is Radio Frequency Identification (RFID).

In this instance, a patient on admission is wrist banded with an RFID band which has unique details of the patient. When a health professional comes to attend to the patient, they simply scan the patients tag and it brings up the patient’s medical history on a Near Field Communication (NFC) enabled tablet or smart phone.

It therefore details the patient’s dosage together with the impending procedures to the nurses who deal directly with the patient. This makes it almost impossible for a nurse to make an error in administering a wrong dosage to a patient or forwarding a patient to a wrong surgical procedure as was witnessed at KNH.

This technology is known as Scan 4 Safety technology and it can greatly reduce human medical error which is a result of many unreported deaths in our hospitals due to administration of the wrong dosage or wrong medical procedures such as surgeries.

 

Kelvin Kariuki is an Assistant Lecturer at the Multimedia University of Kenya in the Faculty of Computing and Information Technology. He holds a Master of Science in Distributed and Computing Technology from University of Nairobi. Kariuki is also a consultant in Real Time and Embedded Systems (Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)) Twitter Handle: @teacherkaris Email: kkariuki@mmu.ac.ke

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