Errors in a medical computer system used in Californian correctional facilities are putting lives at risk, nurses say. In the most recent case, the $45 million system recommended a dose of heart medication which could have been fatal. The error was spotted by a nurse familiar with the patient’s medical history, but this was just one of many recent problems according to Mercury News. Other complaints included appointments and medical history data going missing within the system.
Understanding the challenges and potential errors in implementing a new IT system is a key part of the ITGS HL topic IT Systems in Organisations. Careful planning, design, development, testing, and changeover are needed to successfully complete any IT project.
The suspected cause of the computer errors in this system was not made public, but critics said the system had been implemented rapidly and deployed across a large number of across the county in a direct changeover. This mean staff could not fall back to using the old system in the event of errors. Although training sessions were held for staff, they took place before the system was finished, meaning users could not practise on the finalised system. This contributed to their lack of understanding and the inability to detect problems.
Electronic medical record systems are often introduced to save money and reduce medical errors. However, this case highlights that when any medical IT system fails – even a relatively innocuous one such as a database system – the social impacts can be severe.