What about the Therac-25?

Someone suggested that Dennis Quaid should be reminded of the Therac-25 “if he thinks computers will reduce risk without a huge investment in quality, quality assurance and operational analysis.” For readers who may not be familiar with it, the Therac-25 was a Canadian radiation-therapy device of the 1980s that was intended to treat cancer. It had at least six major accidents and caused three fatalities, because of poor software design and development.

Why should anyone assume Dennis Quaid doesn’t know that quality assurance and operational analysis are needed for anything designed or controled by software? The man is a jet pilot, and thus must be aware of such efforts by aircraft manufacturers, airlines, and the FAA. As Quaid points out, we don’t have a major airline crash every day, and we do have the equivalent in deaths from medical errors. Many of which could be fixed by Computerized Physician Order Entry (CPOE).

Or ask the Mayo Clinic:

“Ease of access, 100% uptime, security, and efficiency are necessary for complete physician adoption of a CPOE system. It is critical for a CPOE system not to have any downtime, as it is essential to a hospital’s operations. CPOE systems must also be extremely responsive. If it takes too long for a physician to flip from screen to screen, it will discourage use of the system. One of the top goals in CPOE implementation involves never requiring a physician to wait in line to access a computer to enter orders. Mobile device access can help hospitals avoid this scenario.”
So why bother?
“Various studies have proven that CPOE systems overall reduce adverse drug events by 86%. The Mayo Clinic also noted that CPOE systems can help avoid expensive malpractice lawsuits.”

Or as a satisfied user puts it:

“I observed (in X’s two hospitalizations there) at Mayo Clinic Hospital a system that appears so intelligently designed to eli minate such mistakes, in thousands of both little and big ways. I watched their procedures in checking and doublechecking (also by electronic tags) before any substance went into an IV. In addition to the high tech stuff, they were all s o focused and careful. Also, they pioneered the use of medical electronic recor d systems — been in that business a loooong time.”

Death toll:

  • Therac-25: 3
  • Standard medical negligence: ~99,000/year (per CDC)
  • Standard medical with CPOE: ~14,000/year (86% less, per Mayo Clinic)