Medical errors are a clear and present danger in today’s healthcare arena. Instead of seeing them decrease, critical patient safety errors and medical mistakes are on the rise. Why is this happening? We all think that technology should improve our lives rather than take us backward. But as more speech recognition reports are being generated, more and more medical errors are being made.
One of the inherent problems with voice recognition— or speech rec technology as it is called— is that it is harder to edit reports on screen than it is to type them! One of the most confounding problems in the medical transcription industry today is the need for constant concentration. It is incredibly hard to maintain focus for eight straight hours! In a normal 8-hour shift, it can be exhausting for a transcriptionist to be scanning a report while listening to dictation and spotting medication errors, terminology errors, or potentially wrong drug dosages.
There is an increased demand in the market today for highly qualified transcriptionists who can become editors. In the interim, many are being pushed to edit more and more reports, which can lead to declining work quality. Whereas it is simpler to transcribe a report while listening to dictation, it is far harder to push a medical transcriptionist to editing reports for more than a normal shift.
Medical malpractice cases are on the rise even with the advent of the electronic healthcare record because major errors are sliding past the tired eyes of medical transcription editors. In some cases, lack of experience may also be the culprit. A trained medical transcriptionist will know the difference in sound-alike medications and how to spot a medication error in a report. However, an unseasoned or rookie transcriptionist might not catch these differences.
Common causes of medication errors today is a result of propagation of wrong information into a patient’s medical record. Once the error has appeared in one report for instance, it can then be repopulated into multiple other reports because that person’s record is a part of a networked healthcare system. The ease with which medication errors and medical errors in general can be created is staggering. Most physicians do not even review their charts or the records they have created for accuracy and must now rely on patients to go over their own records to point out mistakes and call attention to these discrepancies. They must then also be responsible enough to ask the healthcare facility to make changes to the record.
Medication errors are atop our nation’s cause of death list coming in at #3, behind cancer and heart disease. This is a serious problem as more and more facilities convert to speech recognition and the electronic health record.
We can address this growing problem by having more qualified medical transcriptionists who have been trained specifically in speech recognition techniques. Professionals who understand disease processes and pathology and can discern an incorrect medication being prescribed in a patient record before it has the chance to go forth and multiply.
Medical records should be sacred as they tell a patient’s health story. Only qualified healthcare documentation specialists should be working on medical records or doing quality assurance on them. In this way, we can prevent medical mistakes of serious consequences and lower the number of medication errors we are seeing on the rise in the US today. Sadly, many if not all of these errors are preventable by having well-trained professionals transcribing, reviewing, and editing medical records.