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Bad handwriting kills thousands

Roughly 7,000 people die in the United States annually because they got the wrong prescription medicine, and the medicine was largely misprescribed because of poor handwriting. [Missing Links]

Roughly 7,000 people die in the United States annually because they got the wrong prescription medicine, and the medicine was largely misprescribed because of poor handwriting. So said Larry Augustin, CEO of hospital data organization systems maker Medsphere Systems, during a panel presentation at PC Forum. Overall, 100,000 people die annually in the states due to preventable causes, he said. Better databases and automated procedures could put a dent into that.

You can't converse long with an IT executive these days without hearing concerns about the rickety state of health care in the states. Caroline Kovac of IBM asserted that $1.4 trillion is spent on health care in America a year, and $450 billion of that total is due to waste. Tests, for example, sometimes are conducted twice because files are misplaced.

Does connecting health care to the Internet mean that your colostomy bag will someday be online? Sort of. One of the big trends in health medicine is monitoring patient data on a more active basis. Lonny Reisman, CEO of ActiveHealth Management, noted on the panel that Terry Schiavo, at the center of the right-to-die controversy in Florida, is in a coma because of a cardiac arrest induced by low potassium levels. Potassium levels don't drop suddenly, said Reisman, a doctor himself. It happens over time. Better, more regular monitoring of her vital signs could thus have prevented the original cardiac arrest.

ActiveHealth has developed what it calls the CareEngine System, which lets patients upload their vitals to a database, which then cross-checks the results against thousands of clinical rules to ferret out any anomalies or potential dangers.