A recent article I posted demonstrated, beyond a doubt, how technology can be a boon to medicine, if used and managed properly. Most of the time, however, computers work only as well as their users. And, not even the best of systems can protect a doctor or his patients from monumental screwups.

Even at one of the most high-tech hospitals in the country, the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salt Lake City, according to a new study. Researchers found medication-related problems occurred there about 25 percent of the time. If you believe that’s an acceptable failure rate — considering all the patients who go in and out of hospitals — consider this analogy from one VA physician: If you were on an airplane and a quarter of the time it crashed, that would be a problem…

Although computers were programmed to spot dangerous drug interactions, poorly written prescriptions and plain ol’ errors, nine patients out of more than 900 studied died due to problems with medications. That sounds fairly low until you take into account the 483 screwups that were considered moderately harmful and the 9 percent that were deemed serious.

Even though all the drug mishaps couldn’t be blamed solely on human error, researchers still believe many of them were preventable. Without a doubt, that explains the growing number of studies I’ve been posting this year that have documented the countless mistakes committed by conventional medicine, as good a sign as any the established health care paradigm is crumbling before our eyes.

Archives of Internal Medicine, Vol. 165, No. 10, May 23, 2005: 1111-1116

Wired.com May 26, 2005