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Salvaging the quality of EHR data in the age of the “brown bag of pills”

Healthcare payers and providers are moving towards coordinated care as a way to increase the efficiency and decrease the cost of healthcare. The concept is that having primary physicians, specialists, the insurance company and other parties involved in the total care of the patient will eliminate redundant testing, increase medication adherence and cut down on hospital readmissions.

The technology that’s driving coordinated care is the electronic health record (EHR), a digital “chart” that contains all of a patient’s medical information and history. The EHR is a more effective way of sharing patient histories between healthcare providers and is enabling the transparency and information sharing needed for coordinated care.

EHRs are empowering more than just care coordination. The data in EHRs is enabling advanced analytics for identifying patients that are at risk of serious chronic conditions and administering preventative care.

However, what happens when the data in the EHR isn’t accurate? And what if the incorrect data involves the pills and medications that a patient is currently taking? According to MedSnap’s CEO and co-founder, Dr. Patrick Hymel, MD, it happens more often than some would think.

“Collecting a medication history from a patient can be arduous and may contain dated or incorrect information. And it’s not the fault of the nurses and medical professionals in the ER. You can’t necessarily slow down an ER by asking a nurse to sit and identify every pill from a patient’s pill organizer,” said Dr. Hymel. “What adds to the confusion is that so many medications now are generic in brand and appearance. Not every pill is a Nexium, a little purple pill with gold bars on it; many today are just round, white pills.

With medications being so similar in appearance and patients often bringing them into the emergency room in receptacles other than their original, labeled containers, the quality of the data that nurses are gathering is being negatively impacted. This is a phenomenon that many nurses and medical personnel refer to as the “big brown bag of pills,” and it’s degrading the quality of data that’s entering EHRs. When you consider how important EHR data is for the coordination of care, that’s a significant problem.

MedSnap thinks it has an answer. Their new MedSnap ID subscription-based service uses the cameras built into mobile devices to visually recognize prescription medications. By placing a set of patient medications onto the precision imaging tray and utilizing the application to take a picture, medical professionals can generate a list with the name and strength of each pill or capsule. It can even “read” the imprint off a white round pill to distinguish it from those similar in appearance. Here is the MedSnap ID service in action:

The beneficial applications of MedSnap ID include more than just ensuring data quality in EHRs. By analyzing a patient’s pills and medications when they enter the ER or during a home health visit, medical personnel can more easily determine if there was an error in the prescription process. This is especially important since studies have shown that 37 percent of written and 7% of e-Prescribing prescriptions have at least one error and about 2 percent of prescriptions filled are done so incorrectly. MedSnap’s functionality also makes it possible for doctors and medical personnel to identify if a medication has a potentially harmful interaction with other medications a patient is taking or with certain conditions they may have, such as drug allergies.

MedSnap ID Enterprise, the version of MedSnap ID appropriate for health systems and home health organizations, can then securely import the results of each Snap into the EHR.
EHRs are capable of powering coordinated care and increasing efficiency in the healthcare system. They can also empower preventative medicine by helping medical professionals identify patients that are at-risk for chronic conditions and put programs in place to help avoid them. However, EHRs can only be useful if the data they contain is accurate. By identifying medications when patients enter the hospital, medical professionals can ensure that EHR data is correct and actionable.

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