Veterans Hospital Paves the Way for Computerized Records

In a post from earlier this year, our attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC discussed how computerized health records would help Maryland pharmacists and doctors to eliminate Maryland medication mistakes.

According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, on how to digitize the health-care industry, Veterans hospitals have proven to have paved the way——showing doctors and pharmacists important lessons on how to effectively make the digital transformation.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs digitized their records years ago, with great results. Independent studies show that the VA outperformed the private sector and Medicare on preventative services and chronic care. VA officials have claimed that the digital technology has helped cut down on patient hospitalizations and has helped patients live longer.

The VA’s digital records system has been a blessing to patients, allowing doctors and nurses at more than 1,400 facilities to share the medical history of the patients—avoiding the unnecessary repetition of costly tests. As well as storing patient data, the system gives screening warnings and keeps an eye on patient levels, like blood pressure and weight—all safeguards for improved quality care.

In a digitized record for a 59-year old Maryland patient at the VA medical center, all of his health problems were listed, like diabetes and hypertension, as well as all of his data since he has been a patient at the center. The screen showed a list of all current medications, including insulin, the drug Furosemide for heart failure, and Oxycodone, the pain medication. The patient’s doctor can reorder a drug through the system, sent directly to the pharmacy—eliminating medication mistakes and pharmacy misfills. If the doctor orders a new prescription that conflicts with a drug the patient is already taking, there is a warning in the system.

The VA claims that the system has brought incredible improvements. In the VA’s in-home monitoring program of 40,000 patients, hospital admissions have been reduced by 25%, and length of stays in hospitals by 20%. The system’s automatic reminders for colon-cancer screenings and flu shots have also boosted health and performance dramatically.

Because the VA serves 7.84 million patients through 153 hospitals, has 765 outpatient clinics and 230 veterans facilities and centers, with many patients who are seen at other facilities—moving to electronic records was necessary. The number of folders at the Washington VA hospital alone was somewhere around 4,000 to 5,000, not including imaging files.

According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, only 1.5% of U.S. hospitals across the country have a comprehensive digital-record system, or share information with cross platform providers. The government is helping doctors and hospitals move over to digitized records by investing nearly $20 billion in stimulus funding—to increase the quality of care, keep better track of patients, and cut costs. The only catch is that if doctors and hospitals don’t use the newly digitized records by 2015, Medicare will penalize them.

Our Maryland medication mistake attorneys are committed to making sure that medication error victims and their loved ones receive the personal injury compensation they deserve. Contact Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC today for a free consultation.

The Digital Pioneer, The Wall Street Journal, October 27, 2009

Related Web Resources:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

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