Medical devices – A ticking time-bomb

Medical devices – A ticking time-bomb

May 23rd 2012, 10:46 by M.H. | SEATTLE – The Economist Magazine

A MAN with one clock knows what time it is, goes the old saw, a man with two is never sure. Imagine the confusion, then, experienced by a doctor with dozens. Julian Goldman is an anaesthetist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Like many modern health care facilities, it has become increasingly digitised and networked, with hundreds of high-tech medical devices feeding data to a centralised electronic medical record (EMR), which acts as both a permanent repository for health information and a system that can be accessed instantly by doctors to assist with clinical decisions.

After beginning to administer blood-thinning medication during an urgent neurological procedure in 2005, Mr Goldman noticed that the EMR had recorded him checking the level of clotting 22 minutes earlier. The correct interval was 30 minutes and he had, in fact, waited that long. His digital coagulation monitor was running eight minutes slow. 

Had Mr Goldman left the operating room during the procedure, another doctor might reasonably have assumed that the medication was acting swiftly and and reduced the patient’s dosage. That might have led to a life-threatening blood clot.   [more]

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