Technology’s Role in Care

It has been amazing to observe the advancements of technology within healthcare over the years.

These advancements have created opportunities to enhance quality and safety of healthcare in many aspects. One example includes the improvement in medication management processes as a result of the development and use of computerized physician order entry, electronic medication administration records with barcode supported medication verification. This is often referred to as a ‘Closed Loop Medication Management’ process. This change can be a leap in practice for some clinicians with less comfort and/or familiarity with the use of technology in their daily practices. However, there has been robust evidence demonstrating this strategy to prevent medication errors, including errors resulting in adverse drug events and those related to timing of medication.

Recent evidence clearly demonstrates the benefits of physicians entering their own orders into the electronic record system to greatly reduce the risk of transcription errors and provides oppourtunity for clinical decision support to guide their practice, such as the identification of possible drug to drug interactions and prevention of adverse events related to allergic reactions.

It is also recognized that with this technology assisted medication management processes there are also some unintended consequences, especially if the technology is used incorrectly or bypassed altogether. The increased reliance on technology creates a risk for clinicians to forego the use of clinical judgment when using these systems. It is important to note that even though technology supported processes can definitely improve the quality of patient care, they do not replace the clinical knowledge and decision making required in providing safe, quality patient care.

Within mental health care settings in Ontario, the use of technology is fairly new and there are great opportunities for innovation. Aside from the current advancements, there is an increased need to explore the inclusion of patients and families as active participants in their plan of care and technology certainly provides this opportunity.