Medical errors, such as medication errors, can cause a great deal of harm to patients. There are many things that can lead to medical errors. One thing that can result in such errors is when doctors mistakenly put treatment or testing orders in the wrong patient’s chart. Thus, such a mistake can be very impactful.

Misplaced orders are not a mistake that is limited to doctors who use traditional paper records. Such mistakes can also occur when electronic patient charts are used.

Recently, a children’s hospital in Colorado implemented a system aimed at reducing the occurrence of misplaced orders in electronic patient charts. Reportedly, the system involved changing the hospital’s electronic patient chart program so that when a doctor adds a treatment or testing order to a patient’s chart, a verification screen pops up. If the hospital has a photo available of the patient the chart in question is for, it is included in this verification screen. This gives doctors a means of quickly seeing if they did in fact put the order in the correct patient’s chart.

A study that was recently conducted indicates that this new system may be effective in reducing the occurrence of misplaced orders in electronic patient charts. According to the study, the number of misplaced orders that occurred at the above-mentioned hospital dropped after the implementation of this new system.

Thus, it appears that the system implemented in Colorado may be a good way for hospitals to help prevent the occurrence of misplaced orders. One wonders if the use of order verification screens and patient photos in electronic patient charts will become more common in hospitals in upcoming years.

Source: Reuters, “Can patient photos help cut medical errors?,” Amy Norton, June 4, 2012