Safety in your hands
Dr Lo Wing Kee was the winner of the annual MPS/Hong Kong Academy of Medicine patient safety award in 2012. Here he explains what inspired him to study the effects of digital technology on patient safety
The PDA – personal digital assistant – is the ancestor of the smartphone. I started with Palm OS myself and, since then, I haven’t stopped using them.
Today, billions of people are using them everyday. A few years ago, I asked myself why the medical industry did not introduce these devices for bedside care of patients when even small restaurants had already been using them.
Thanks to the support from the management team of the hospital I work for, I had a chance to visit a hospital in China, which started to deploy these devices for bedside care.
Kickstarting the project
The functions they had at that time were very primitive and were not suitable for the local use in my hospital in Hong Kong. Therefore we co-operated with the responsible software firm to jointly run a project in our hospital.
We provided the clinical and local IT support while they wrote the necessary app on an industrial grade smartphone. All the data were transferred through a wireless network. After one year of hard work, the system was deployed for use.
The functions we built into the system include: taking photos of patients, scanning of 2D barcodes, recording of vital signs and graph plotting, printing of specimen labels at the bedside, retrieval of investigation results and, most important of all, tracking of drug administration, setting different alerts to remind medical personnel when there is any suspected error during the dispensing of medication, including wrong patient, wrong time, drug overdose and overdue drugs.
What we wanted to achieve through the system was mainly patient safety and the minimisation of human errors. Of these, the most common ones are drug administration errors, which can be catastrophic.