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To Telemedically Err Is Human

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Background: As telemedicine alters the process of health care and introduces new technology, the extent to which it introduces new errors or allows for the occurrence of familiar errors needs to be examined.

Telemedicine's Impact on Patient Safety Features of Traditional Care: The accuracy of diagnostic decisions reached via telemedicine can be directly affected by the technology's limitations and the care providers' lack of training. Telemedicine could increase the risk of familiar types of patient-provider communication failure and introduce the possibility of cumulative errors.

Telemedicine's Impact on New Care Features and Concepts: Telemedical applications that use the Internet to enhance disease management and detection and monitoring of symptoms may place the privacy and confidentiality of individual health information at risk, which imposes a possible barrier to communication. In addition, home care patients' functional limitations need to be addressed by human factors engineering.

Recommendations: Patient safety should be integrated in organizational readiness and budget planning for telemedical interventions in hospitals, academic settings, nursing homes, home care agencies, and other health care settings. Specific recommendations are proposed for the development and diffusion of standards in telemedical care, risk management and reduction, and continuous quality improvement.

Summary and Conclusions: To address patient safety and provide high-quality care, a framework for addressing and examining telemedical errors needs to be established.

Document Type: Miscellaneous

Publication date: September 1, 2004

More about this publication?
  • Published monthly, The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety is a peer-reviewed publication dedicated to providing health professionals with the information they need to promote the quality and safety of health care. The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety invites original manuscripts on the development, adaptation, and/or implementation of innovative thinking, strategies, and practices in improving quality and safety in health care. Case studies, program or project reports, reports of new methodologies or new applications of methodologies, research studies on the effectiveness of improvement interventions, and commentaries on issues and practices are all considered.

    David W. Baker, MD, MPH, FACP, executive vice president for the Division of Healthcare Quality Evaluation at The Joint Commission, is the inaugural editor-in-chief of The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety.

    Also known as Joint Commission Journal on Quality Improvement and Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Safety
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