Is the technology gap the reason why medical errors are the 3rd leading cause of death in the U.S.?

Hardly a day goes by without some new revelation of an information technology mess in the United States that seems like an endless round of the old radio show joke contest, “Can You Top This” except that increasingly the joke is on us. From nuclear weapons updated with floppy disks to needless deaths from medical errors, many of which are caused by preventable interoperability communication errors.

According to a report released to Congress, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that the U.S. government last year spent 75 percent of its 80 billion dollar technology budget just maintaining aging computers where floppy disks are still used, including one system for U.S. nuclear forces that is more than 50 years old. In a previous report, the GAO outlines the challenges facing health IT interoperability.

Lack of “EHR interoperability” is not an academic issue, it impacts the healthcare of millions of Americans, and it is a major factor behind the deaths of hundreds of thousands of patients every year as a result of “medical errors.” A study from the British Medical Journal cites medical errors as the third leading cause of death in the U.S., after heart disease and cancer.

The GAO report, titled “EHRs: Nonfederal Efforts to Help Achieve Health Information Interoperability” details the status of efforts to develop infrastructure that could lead to nationwide interoperability of health information. The report, which was requested by Congressional leaders, describes a variety of efforts being undertaken to facilitate interoperability. The report concludes that most of these efforts remain “works in progress.” The GAO identifies five barriers to interoperability:

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Andrew Slavitt, EHR, electronic medical record, GAO, Government Accountability Office, interoperability, Medical errors, middleware, WHO, World Health Organization, Zoeticx, “EHRs: Nonfederal Efforts to Help Achieve Health Information Interoperability”


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