• Article
  • January 19, 2017

Saving Lives and Reducing Medication Errors with Data

CHOP-born innovation leverages data analytics to reduce medication errors

Medication errors are one of the biggest safety issues facing hospitals today. An Institute of Medicine study estimates that on average, a hospital patient is subject to at least one medication error per day. For pediatric patients, the danger is heightened because of their lower body weights—even a tiny error can have catastrophic results. To address this, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) developed technology to improve medication safety for its patients.

Using data analytics to prevent errors

A team of CHOP clinicians spent more than two years building an expansive pharmaceutical library and accompanying software. The software aggregates medication administrative data and presents it to hospital safety leaders so they can better monitor key safety metrics.

It also uses error-reduction algorithms so that hospital staff can more easily identify problem areas and make universal changes on the fly. In essence, this new technology automates and digitizes what has traditionally been a highly manual and paper-driven process, which can lead to errors.

Ditching the big binder

The primary benefit of the technology for patients is clear: an Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality study suggests that hospitals can prevent as many as 95 percent of adverse drug effects caused by medication errors. But the technology has a profound impact on health care professionals as well, which ultimately is good for the patient.

"In a prior world, there wasn't really an algorithm or a platform where we could (manage medications)," says Patrick FitzGerald, CHOP's vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation. "We had these 400-page paper documents that we had to flip through."

He says this helps clinicians to get away from the binder and the data-clerking that doesn't allow them to practice at the top of their license. "As a result, they're able to focus exclusively on the patient in front of them as opposed to the 400-page binder that they're carrying around," FitzGerald says.

Gathering interest

While the product was under development, word began to spread about what was happening at CHOP. Hospitals around the world expressed interest. "At that point, we realized that we might be on to something," FitzGerald says.

Hospital leadership began to discuss the concept of something larger, perhaps a stand-alone company that could provide this service to other institutions. They took the idea out to about 30 hospitals around the country, and the response was positive. Last summer, after roughly two years of incubation, CHOP spun the technology out as a separate company, Bainbridge Health.

Speed to market is key

Bainbridge Health marks the fourth such spinout for CHOP in the past three years. FitzGerald says while the process of starting a new company is not easy, the approach can be effective when the conditions are right.

"Obviously, we have a fantastic research institute, but there's also an arm to disseminate these sorts of innovations and accelerate them to the market more quickly using spinouts and stand-alone companies," FitzGerald says.

The data program is beginning to have an impact outside of CHOP. Two other hospitals have deployed it, and FitzGerald says 30 more are scheduled to follow in the coming year.

Send questions or comments to magazine@childrenshospitals.org.