In theory, the integration of computers into medical settings protects patients from human error. Any physician or staff member can quickly reference records and diagnostic results with the click of a button. Scanning barcodes before administering medication can prevent accidental medication mistakes.
Software can even alert nurses on duty to changes in a patient’s condition if they use electronic monitoring systems. Unfortunately, putting too much emphasis on computer programs in medical settings, especially in places like emergency rooms, can lead to unfortunate outcomes for the patients involved.
Computers can’t perform triage as accurately as humans
One of the hardest parts about working in an emergency room or urgent care facility is that you have to make snap judgments about who gets treatment quickly when demand is high. During slow times, everyone sees a doctor quickly.
Unfortunately, there is no predictability to the flow of patients into emergency facilities. Some days, emergency rooms are all but empty. Other days, they are standing room only. On busy days, staff members have to decide whom to prioritize through triage. Triage involves the rapid diagnosis and a cursory analysis of someone’s condition.
Typically, they want to prioritize care for those in the most need but who have the greatest potential to recover first. Those who don’t need immediate care or those who won’t respond to any form of treatment may not get care quickly. When a patient doesn’t neatly fit into the forms, charts or software program used by a facility, workers may struggle to categorize their needs appropriately. Workers must be able to make their own decisions and ensure quick treatment for those with the most serious need.
Delays in care can be costly for patients
Mistakes in triage procedures are concerning for a number of reasons. The biggest one is that those in desperate need of medical assistance may face unnecessary delays. When emergency room staff members make mistakes about whom to treat first, those experiencing medical events like cardiac arrest or stroke could get worse and even die while waiting for help.
Patients affected by improper triage procedures and those who lose a loved one due to delays in care may have grounds for medical malpractice claims based on mistakes made in the emergency room setting.