By now, we've all heard the heart-breaking story of Thomas Eric Duncan, the Dallas patient who was seen in the ER for fever and vomiting and was sent home. Three days later, he tested positive for Ebola and subsequently died.
This is a tragic, unacceptable outcome. But sometimes doctors make mistakes: It's a new epidemic, as doctors we are routinely asked to see superhuman numbers of patients in small periods of time, and things can get past us.
However, in this case it appears that the issue is less about a single provider's mistake and more about the systemic issues that needed to be addressed. In recent days, news sources have reported that the ER doctors who cared for Mr. Duncan never saw a nurse's note in the EMR reporting that the patient had just come from Liberia. Apparently it was this issue with the EMR that caused a deadly gap in communication.
Unfortunately, this kind of problem is neither unexpected nor novel. In fact, although this example was particularly extreme in its consequences, this kind of communication failure is all too common in medicine. We see systemetic problems throughout the medical system:
- EMRs are often very difficult and counterintuitive to use, understand, or grasp the limitations of.
- Billing, paperwork, and controls take up most of the time we have with each patient.
- HIPAA keeps providers from talking with each other about patients in ways that can pass on crucial nuances (or facts about travel).
- Knowledge and data can overwhelm providers, making it hard to parse what is important
- Billing concerns demand a checklist focus and mentality or providers can't survive.
So, use iClickCare or not, but collaborate. None of us can afford the consequences otherwise.
Image courtesy of communityeyehealth on Flickr, used under Creative Commons rights.