Health Management Technology has a story this month about hospitals buying health care IT to improve patient safety. Anyone who's been in health care for long, comes to marvel at why some products are adopted while some equally deserving solutions are not. What struck me about this story is that "patient safety" is continuing to be a growing factor in hospital purchases.

There is no lack of potential solutions to improve patient safety. Some of the most popular ones include meds administration, improved communications, and alarm notification. This story is focused on meds admin, and illustrates that resulting safety improvements are tied to proper workflow support and automation. The traditional barcode oriented meds admin described in the story is tightly integrated with the order entry of meds, order fulfillment in the pharmacy, and the eventual administration to the patient. This contrasts nicely with "smart" infusion pumps that presently automate only the setup and operation of the pump itself - this abbreviated workflow misses many of the potential safety issues addressed by the meds admin solutions from HIT vendors.

The contrast in meds admin solutions from pump vendors and HIT vendors is an interesting one. The HIT vendors are better with understanding and supporting workflow, while medical device companies obviously understand better how their devices are used in clinical practice. Workflow automation around most medical devices is something vendors continue to struggle with. To continue the infustion pump example, key workflows include pump settings, the broader meds prep workflow, and alarm notification. Even a mature market like telemetry has yet to begin to handle workflows around improved alarm notification.

It's encouraging to see patient safety continue to drive the adoption of new technologies, and this should keep health care moving in the right direction.