Medical Injury Keywords More Useful in Catching Errors than Billing Codes

00000%20files.jpgSimple searches of hospital medical records using medical injury keywords are more beneficial in identifying and preventing medical errors, than the use of conventional billing codes. A study at six Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals found that these Google-like searches were effective in reducing errors, leading to recommendations that electronic medical record systems include such search features.

Billing codes are widely used as a way to measure patient safety ratings. The US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services uses billing codes to evaluate the quality of care at U.S. hospitals. However, the study at the Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals found more success with text searches. Researchers reviewed records at six VA hospitals between 1999 and 2006. The records were configured to allow specific keywords. A total of 2,974 patients who had undergone surgery were included in the analysis.

Through word searches, the researchers were able to turn up several medical records, including charts, doctor’s notes, and lab notes that did not turn up when the surgeon used billing codes. In fact according to the researchers, hospitals probably miss as many as 90% of preventable medical injuries because of their excessive reliance on billing codes.

The only disadvantage is that these searches for specific keywords turn up a lot of records where injuries have not really occurred. That, however, is much more preferable to injury records not turning up during searches, which is what seems to happen often when medical professionals use billing codes.

Configuring electronic medical record systems to include text searches for specific keywords could provide a broader scope for the tracking of medical errors.

The Indiana medical malpractice lawyers at Montross Miller Muller Mendelson and Kennedy help victims of medical malpractice obtain compensation for their injuries.