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The power of the Purple Button

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  By Douglas Dotan,  May 21, 2013

With the right technology, healthcare organizations can securely and effectively exchange patient safety information while complying with federal regulations.

When physicians take the Hippocratic Oath, they pledge to “do no harm.” Although the focus of healthcare is to help people, approximately 200,000 deaths occur each year in the United States due to preventable medical mistakes, according to an investigation by Hearst Corporation. This statistic is a sign of a national epidemic: the lack of healthcare information sharing between organizations.

Without safely sharing patient safety information, healthcare organizations cannot learn from one another, and thus are unable to fuel continuous improvement and prevent harm from devastating medical errors. Today’s healthcare organizations must be able to securely and effectively exchange patient safety information.

The U.S. government has already recognized this need and is attempting to solve the problem with the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act (PSQIA) of 2005, which mandates the creation of Patient Safety Organizations (PSOs), and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), which requires states to build health insurance exchanges (HIXs) for use by the Jan. 1, 2014, deadline. This has recently been delayed until 2015. Further complicating this mandate is the requirement that by Jan. 1, 2015, HIXs cannot contract with a hospital of 50 beds or more unless that hospital has a patient safety evaluation system in place and submits data to a Patient Safety Organization (PSO).

While 2015 may seem to be in the distant future, time is of the essence for healthcare organizations to overcome their fears of sharing information and enact patient safety information-sharing measures. Most health plan contracts, including those in the HIXs, are for terms of a year or more, which means that contracts taking effect on Jan. 1, 2014, must comply with 2015 requirements. The solution for ensuring compliance with these federal mandates, providing a protective environment and easy method of sharing patient safety information, rests in technology – specifically, “Purple Button” technology.

The concept of Purple Button technology focuses on information sharing – from the bedside to the boardroom – to help hospitals and healthcare organizations improve quality and patient safety and prevent the occurrence of medical errors. In a 2009 study, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) reported that less than 2 percent of all medical safety events are reported by physicians. If reported, these events could provide critical raw data for healthcare providers, researchers, developers and policymakers to improve patient safety and increase the value of health IT.

So, why aren’t more physicians disclosing vital information that may improve patient outcomes and ultimately save lives? Despite the implications of the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act, the fear of disciplinary action, impact on reputation and potential litigation all influence physicians’ decisions on sharing patient safety concerns. Therefore, many doctors and hospital personnel choose to deal with patient safety information on an individual, case-by-case basis, meaning the data is siloed rather than shared. In addition, some physicians are hesitant to take time to document patient safety events, as they deem it disruptive of their daily workflow.

New technology ensures that, with one simple click, hospitals and healthcare organizations can accurately, securely and automatically generate and analyze patient safety events. Essentially, the Purple Button enables clinicians to record and submit, directly from an EHR/EMR or the Internet, patient safety events or unsafe conditions using Direct Project secure messaging. The Purple Button simplifies the process for healthcare providers to send patient safety information from existing databases, which are already in place in many healthcare organizations. The hospital’s Patient Safety Officer receives the relevant information in the AHRQ Common Formats for analysis and quality improvement in their Patient Safety Evaluation System.

As a result of information sharing, healthcare organizations can analyze all contributing factors in any medical outcome and recognize best practice interventions. If healthcare managers know what to fix and how to fix it before it breaks, they can put a plan in action to increase their staff’s effectiveness, produce positive results and render care productively, efficiently and correctly to keep patients safe and healthy.

Time is critical for healthcare organizations to adopt a secure means of capturing and recording patient safety events and meet the requirements of the ACA, and Purple Button technology can help meet these needs – today. If every hospital and EHR had a Purple Button, the quality of patient care could improve, healthcare costs could go down, physicians and other caregivers could work in safer environments and thousands of lives could be saved a year.

About the author

Douglas Dotan is president and CEO of CRG Medical, developer of the KBCore patient safety knowledge builder software platform. Learn more at http://kbco.re/

 


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