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Could placing patients’ pictures in their charts reduce medical errors? One study says yes.

After pushing hospitals to replace paper records with electronic ones, many policymakers now believe the next step in improving the quality of medical care is to reduce the number of errors made by doctors. One study recently found that putting a child’s photo in their electronic hospital chart reduced one type of medical error – a patient getting a test or treatment intended for someone else due to a doctor’s misplaced orders. An article about the study can be found here.

The Children’s Hospital of Colorado found that misplaced orders were the second-most common reason that patients received care not meant for them in a quality improvement program conducted in 2009. The hospital reacted to this result by changing its computer system so that each order for a test or treatment required an affirmative “verification” that the order was aligned with the correct patient which included a photo of the child.
The results reflected the success of this policy change: in 2010, the hospital had twelve incidents in which a child received care intended for another patient because of misplaced orders, but after implementing the photo policy, that number fell to three.

Using digital cameras to take patient’s photos when they are admitted would make is feasible for other hospitals to add photos to their electronic records as it is relatively inexpensive.
Although policies such as this reduce the number of medical errors at hospitals, patients should still understand the general treatment plan so they can speak up if they believe they are getting incorrect or inappropriate treatment and/or tests.

As an experienced Baltimore, Maryland medical malpractice lawyer, I have been involved in a number of medical malpractice, medical negligence and medical error cases in Baltimore and other counties in Maryland involving misplaced orders. To see some of the cases I have handled, click here.

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