Computer to help cut cases of maternity negligence
HEALTH chiefs are hoping to cut down on the number of medical negligence cases against its doctors with the introduction of a new computer system in maternity hospitals.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) is to purchase the multi-million euro system that will link all 19 maternity hospitals and share all data on the 72,000 annual births.
The new system will replace current systems and also paper records. The country's newest maternity hospital, Cork University Maternity Hospital, relies on paper records.
It opened in March 2007 at a cost of €75m.
However, the Coombe in Dublin has a computer system which was installed in 1986. Both hospitals are among the busiest in the country, with up to 9,000 births each per annum.
"A national approach will achieve economies of scale . . . and long-term reduction in costs for clinical indemnity, through improved care," a tender for the system states.
It will help cut down on avoidable mistakes by eliminating handwriting errors, misfiling of reports and loss of information.
It will also have an in-built "intelligent alarm" to signal abnormal scans, drug sensitivities and abnormal lab results.
Almost 84,000 clinical errors or adverse incidents affecting patients were recorded in Irish hospitals in 2009, costing just under €50m.
However, the largest payouts relate to health problems incurred during birth because the victims will need full-time care for the rest of their lives.
In July, Charlotte Barry (4) from O'Connell Gardens, Sandymount, Dublin, secured €1.65m as part of an interim settlement of her legal action against a hospital.
She was left with severe cerebral palsy arising out of the circumstances of her birth at the National Maternity Hospital on September 9, 2005. However, the payment was made on the basis that she can come back to court for further payments.
The new system -- called the Maternal and Newborn Clinical Management System (MN-CMS) -- will be installed in the 19 public hospitals which have maternity units, and may be later installed in private hospitals.
"The optimum medical record system is an electronic system with significant advantages over paper records particularly related to alterations, loss of information, misfiling of reports, poor handwriting, and indecipherable signatures," the tender states.
"An electronic system would enable real-time recording at the patient's bedside, authentication of the information and an audit trail with verification."
It is believed it will result in "improved quality of patient care and reduced incidence of error".