Computers and Communication: Important Tools to Combat Medical Malpractice

An interesting article appeared in the May 14 online edition of Newsweek regarding health care reform and protecting your own good health.  While the majority of the article discusses preventive medical care, Dr. Finkelstein, the article’s author, raises important points about how doctors could improve safety for patients.  Specifically, patient outcomes could be improved if:

  • There was better, more consistent, use of computerized medical records that prompt doctors, nurses, hospitals and others to take the necessary actions at the necessary times and to avoid actions that are dangerous to the patient; and
  • Doctors worked “as a true team” with nurses and other professionals.

What is striking about Dr. Finkelstein’s points is their simplicity.  Computerized medical records that alert doctors to dangers, such as drug interactions or allergies, for example, and good communication among medical staff can easily, and inexpensively, decrease incidents of medical malpractice and improve safety for patients.

Health care reform law may not deal with simple issues like computerized records and the communication between doctors and nurses, but that does not mean that those things are not critically important.  More can be done to encourage them and to save lives without significantly increasing the costs of medical care in the United States.

Source: Newsweek, “Save Yourself”, by Jonathan Finkelstein, online edition May 14, 2010 from the Magazine Issue dated May 31, 2010.