In his Informaticopia-Blog Rod Ward brought this article to my attention. It details the quite a large number of incidents effecting the NHS IT-systems installed in hospitals. A frightening large number of patients were put at risk.
Read the news story: Major incidents hit NHS national systems
When I first read this story I was quite frightend about the large number of patients put at risk in each case since the system failures effected parts of or complete hospitals.
I do not want to diminuish these failures, the put patients at risk! ButÂ IÂ am wondering if itÂ is not also a question of perception.Â Why? In most hospitals that do not have information systems installed for patient data it is quite common thatÂ theÂ paper recordsÂ are not available at the time of need. This happens for example if the paper-based patient record is not at hand or (temporarely) displaced. This can be considered as a failure of the paper-based information system.Â While these individual cases might add up to quite a large number they do not show up so easily since they are single isolated incidents and not worth reporting. Nonetheless they put each individual patient at the same risk as would be the case if the information systems fails.
But if a hospitalÂ information system or part of it fails it might affect hundreds of even thousands of people at one time. This is well worthÂ reporting, investigating,Â and commenting. It reminds me of the perception of car accidents versus airplane crashes. The later ones make the news stories. But still travelling by plane is safer than driving a car.
It would be very interesting to have good studies compairing the number of incidents affecting patients due to medical paper records with the number of incidents caused by failures of electronic patient records.