Healthcare Information Technology (IT) has progressed by leaps and bounds in the last decade and today, it can easily save your life or the life of your loved one if you or your family member has to be hospitalized for any reason. Not only can healthcare IT save your life but your money, too.

The wrong medication can easily kill you. You might know you are allergic to a medication and have input that on your patient information forms. There might be a known medication interaction between two medications provided. Unless these facts are compared and taken into account, it is very easy for the wrong medication to be provided in a healthcare setting.

Doctors and nurses are only human. They work long hours; often working double shifts during crises. They get tired; their eyes become weary and they are frequently rushing from patient to patient. Even when well-rested and refreshed, mistakes can be made because these professionals are simply human and no human is perfect. Even with the best training, it is possible to misread a doctor’s instructions, medication allergy information, or the name or dosage of a drug on the often small-print labels. The potential for error is enormous, at best, when human eyes and hands are the only method for dispensing medication to patients in hospitals or other healthcare settings.

One well-known example which received a lot of press was the incident with Dennis and Kimberly Quaid’s twin babies. These tiny infants were given a dosage of Heparin which was 1,000 times the dosage ordered, and while they recovered, death was a clear possibility. There were not the only patients overdosed with this medication. They were just the famous ones that received press.

The solution to this life-threatening problem is added safety measures but no patient wants to pay the added cost of having multiple sets of human eyes check every single instruction and medication. Plus, even with two or three sets of eyes, the possibility of error remains.

So, how are you, as a patient, to be assured you are getting the correct medications while paying the least amount of money? The answer will sound simple but the actual implementation is quite complex. For this reason, let’s look at the simple, easy-to-understand reason why healthcare IT helps assure your health and save pocketbook, too.

Computers do not get tired; they do not become distracted by the phone call from the children’s school or other personal problems. They are, today, perfectly capable of reading medication labels accurately every single time by use of barcodes. Once told of an allergy or possible medication contraindication, the computer never, ever forgets or fails to compare the medication about to be provided to you, the patient, with these facts. And, this process is accomplished within nanoseconds rather than valuable minutes of a human’s time.

Once medication is dispensed by the healthcare IT medication control solution, the computer bills your insurance carrier or adds the medication to your self-pay account. Instead of having many pieces of paper and many hands processing this information, it is handled efficiently and instantly. The right patient is billed for the right medication in the correct amount. The errors historically made of healthcare bills are reduced to virtually zero.

At the same time, the inventory of the medication is reduced by the amount which has been dispensed and, when the inventory becomes sufficiently reduced, a flag is raised and an order generated so that an order is generated for the supplier to deliver more. This way, human error does not result in shortages of critical medications.

The many legally required reports regarding dispensing of medications — especially controlled substances which help you deal with post-surgical or post-injury pain and suffering — are generated. These reports once required hours or days to produce.

It remains true that your healthcare professionals must input your patient information into the healthcare IT system correctly in order for these safeguard to work properly, but the time consumed by this process is only minutes compared to the hours eaten away in past decades by paper-trails and hand-dispensing of medication.

Healthcare IT systems are now being deployed into physicians’ and other healthcare professionals’ offices because they work just as well when prescribing medication to be dispensed at your local pharmacy as when dispensing medication in a hospital.

While these healthcare IT solutions require a substantial initial investment to put into place, the long-term savings to patients is enormous. More importantly, the peace of mind you gain when hospitalized or being treated by a healthcare professional is vast. Just consider what is your life worth when a single medication error could kill you!

Muhammad Siddiqui is a focused Healthcare IT Architect and Project Manager with over 12 years experience in healthcare interface solutions and clinical applications. With a proven track record delivering HL7, X12, HIS, LIS, PIS client/service and distributed system architectures, as well as cross-vendor systems utilizing Cerner, Mediware WoRx, Eclipsys, GE Centricity, Epic, Allscript, Meditech, CPSI and SunQuest in some of the top U.S. hospitals, he continually stays on the cutting edge of healthcare IT developments. He also holds an MBA in Business as well as many computer hardware and software certifications.