Researchers look to connect patient records between hospitals, med flight crews

Is it possible to link patient records between hospitals and medical flight crews? Doing so could save lives, according to researchers from Case Western Reserve University's (CWRU) nursing school.

When local hospitals transfer patients to higher-level care facilities, there's at least a 30 percent higher death rate than if they had stayed put, according to an announcement from Case Western. In response, Case Western researchers say they think "the answer is somewhere in the medical records."

Currently, it's difficult for flight crews to access information in electronic medical records from different hospitals because they're not interoperable.

Andrew Reimer, Ph.D., a CWRU instructor, said that he and his group are working on technology that mines information from patient charts to make a complete picture of a patient's medical situation. They intend to use information compiled from the charts of the hospital, the flight crew and the new facility.

"Families also need the information to determine what's best for their loved ones--move the patient or stay," he said in the announcement

It is dificult to mine medical information, such as patient demographics, medical and surgical histories, procedures, laboratory, pharmacy, vital signs, billing data and patient outcomes. Therefore, the researchers created a digital template that creates a table with 42 areas of information to fill in for consistent data reporting.

"Searching a patient's chart for appropriate health information at a single hospital can take days. But the new interface technologies allow information to be mined from 42 different data points in minutes," Reimer said.

Researchers reported having "some success" with the Cleveland Clinic Hospital System by linking the flight and hospital information for patients transported to the Clinic's 1,300-bed main campus in Cleveland, 10 community hospitals and 14 family health and ambulatory surgery centers in the Clinic's system.

As reported earlier this month, data transfer between health IT systems often is inadequate from a patient-safety perspective, according to a new analysis of HIT-related safety events by the ECRI Institute Patient Safety Organization.

In its report, which examined 171 health IT events at 36 facilities between April and June of last year, the Plymouth Meeting, Pa., nonprofit organization identified five potential problem areas for such events. In addition to inadequate data transfer, researchers said that other notable health IT-related problems included systems not functioning as intended; poor system configurations; inaccurate data entry in patient records; and data entry in the wrong patient records.

ECRI annually publishes a list of what it considers top health technology hazards. In its last list, published in November, three of the top 10 hazards dealt with errors in information management: patient/data mismatches in electronic health records and other health IT systems; interoperability failures with medical devices and health IT systems; and caregiver distractions from smartphones and other mobile devices.

To learn more:
- read the announcement from CWRU

Related Articles:
Data transfer issues for HIT systems a major safety concern
HHS issues health IT safety action plan
Health information errors cited among top 10 health IT hazards
6 ways to improve safety of medication administration and delivery
Reporting errors leads to workflow improvements

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