Some hospitals resist technology evolution

(Photo – Larry Davis for The New York Times) Systems like this one at Children’s Hospital in Seattle display a warning when a drug order is above a suggested range.
While many hospitals have touted their increased use of technology – from PDA to patient bed side portable computers to xray networks and more. Not all hospitals are jumping on board.
Some hospitals have found that their huge investments in technology are worth it, but there are many, as reported in the New York Times that feel it’s just too expensive and the return on investment is not great enough – or not at all.
Hospitals are not investing in technology for technology’s sake but 1) for better service within the hospital and to their customers and 2) for safety reasons – less mistakes on reading what a Doctor’s scrawled prescription says, for example.
The NY Time’s article reads For years, technology has been held out as an important way to curb the scourge of medical errors. President Bush and Senator John Kerry have each called for a bigger commitment to computerization to reduce the 98,000 avoidable deaths a year that an eye-opening federal report in 1999 said might be caused by mistakes of doctors, nurses and other hospital personnel.
Yet even now, despite pressure from large employers, unions and health care advocacy groups – and aggressive marketing by vendors – only a few dozen medical centers across the country are making full use of the latest computerized patient safety systems.
The systems are intended to overcome problems as common as illegible handwriting on doctors’ prescriptions that cause patients to receive the wrong drugs or doses, or result in one physician’s not knowing what another has ordered.
Still, hospitals and doctors say they have good reason to be cautious about the new technology. Many doubt that the computerized systems will ever repay their multimillion-dollar costs, according to Janet Corrigan, a health care financing and quality expert at the Institute of Medicine, which published the 1999 report and a follow-up in 2001 that called for eliminating “most handwritten clinical data by the end of the decade.”
They also fear that current technology will be outmoded or cost much less in a few years. And many doctors complain that using the systems to write prescriptions and order tests takes time away from seeing patients and running their offices on already stressful workdays.
(full story)