ElectronicHealthcare 1(2) December 2001 : 52-58

Information Systems Solutions to Medical Errors

Douglas Ivan Thompson and James Oakes


The Institute of Medicine released a report in late 1999 titled To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System. This report puts the number of preventable deaths in America from medical errors at 44,000 to 98,000 a year, and estimates the cost of preventable errors at $17-29 billion. While the research behind this report is not new, these figures shocked the nation, and have already led to a number of proposed regulatory changes. In addition this report has touched a nerve in boardrooms and living rooms across the country, and is likely to eventually result in other, more fundamental changes in the way consumers and purchasers evaluate and select healthcare providers.

This paper:

  • Summarizes what the IOM report says about the nature, frequency, and causes of medical errors;
  • Links the report's recommendations and their information systems implications;
  • Proposes an integrated approach to help providers design information systems solutions that can reduce the rate of medical errors.



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