GE Healthcare, Intermountain Health Care target medical errors

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GE Healthcare and Intermountain Health Care (IHC) integrated healthcare system yesterday announced a collaboration to prevent adverse drug events and increase patient safety. This is the first initiative of a 10-year, $100 million collaboration between the organizations announced in February that is focusing on enhancing the patient care process in hospitals and clinics and accelerating the adoption of electronic health records among health systems in the United States.

The first joint project will be to develop a new advanced electronic medication administration record, also known as an eMAR. GE and IHC will work with an assortment of healthcare professionals including physicians, nurses and engineers to create the new eMAR.

Don Woodlock, general manager, Inpatient Clinical, GE Healthcare, Information Technology said this first project has a couple central themes which include "embedded clinical knowledge which is not just something to remain in a doctor's mind or to sit in a book on a shelf, you can take that and put it in the system."

Additionally, the project is emphasizing collaboration aimed at "knitting the care team together so the physician, pharmacist, and nurse are all working together to make sure the patient is getting the right drug and are working in a coordinated fashion to assure that no mistakes are made," Woodlock said.

Towards that goal, "an eMAR is basically a tool that the nurse will use," said Woodlock. "It makes sure that everything is all right before the medication is administered. So, we're using bar coding technology to check the patient's wristband to make sure that the drug goes to the correct patient. The system can check the drug to assure that it's the right type at the right dose."

The technology also will eventually include hand-held devices for nurses. This means that if anything changes from the point that a physician orders a medication, such as a new lab result comes in, it can be brought to the attention of the nurse so that he or she can check with the physician about it.

The work will commence at a joint clinical research center to be based in West Valley, Utah. A portion of the current IHC facility will be devoted to the research center and will eventually house as many as 100 employees, some of whom will be existing GE and IHC employees, and other will be new hires, said Woodlock.

GE offered data to support the urgency of developing such technology. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) says that adverse drug events result in nearly 770,000 injuries and deaths each year, and can cost a single hospital millions of dollars every year. The AHRQ has estimated that the development of computerized monitoring systems, like eMAR, can reduce up to 95 percent of those errors.

According to GE and IHC, the new clinical research center -- expected to create more than 100 in-state jobs -- will provide a central location for researchers to combine IHC's clinical data with GEHC's clinical IT programs.

GEHC hopes to deploy the eMAR system by 2006 at Intermountain first, and then make it available commercially to others.