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Baby's Death Spotlights Safety Risks Linked to Computerized Hospital Systems

Baby's Death Spotlights Safety Risks Linked to Computerized Hospital Systems

Chicago Tribune

The lack of so-called interoperability between computer systems is a “huge problem” in hospitals and a significant contributor to potential safety issues, said Marc Probst, chief information officer at Intermountain Healthcare, a 23-hospital system in Salt Lake City and a member of the Health Information Technology Policy Committee, a federally appointed group. What’s needed, he suggested, are better, more uniform national standards.

Other experts have called for more oversight by the FDA, which currently doesn’t review new health information technologies or study their safety or effectiveness; mandatory reporting of adverse events to a national database; or the creation of an independent body like the Federal Aviation Administration that would oversee the safety of these technologies, bringing vendors, hospitals, doctors and others to the table.

The Burketts filed a lawsuit in April against Advocate Health and Hospitals Corp., alleging that the hospital’s actions led to their son’s death and asking for an unspecified amount of money. Hospital officials said they are pursuing a settlement.

“It has been really hard to move on,” said Fritzie Burkett, wiping tears from her eyes. “This didn’t have to happen.”

For their part, Advocate officials apologized to the Burketts for the errors that killed Genesis while vowing that similar mistakes would not happen again.

Since last year, staff have activated alerts for similar IV compounders used in the system’s hospitals and strengthened “double check” policies for all medications leaving pharmacies, among other measures. Having poured $100 million into health care technology over the last decade, the system plans to use federal stimulus funds to institute a host of upgrades to electronic systems over the coming months.

The Burkett’s case remains a “humbling” reminder that “we’ve got more work to do,” Sacks said.

© 2011, Chicago Tribune.

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