Errors That are Truly Fatal
During lunch at the International Python Developers Conference this month, I found myself at a table with several application developers who work for medical service providers.During lunch at the International Python Developers Conference this month, I found myself at a table with several application developers who work for medical service providers. We were talking about handheld devices, following that mornings announcement that a version of the Python scripting language was now running on Palm OS. I suggested that it was only a matter of time before a test case hospital deathcaused by misunderstood written instructionsspurred wholesale medical adoption of handheld data terminals. These could ensure more accurate transmittal of doctors orders.
Around the table, heads were shaken at my naiveté. "It happens too often," one medical software consultant replied, "to get anyone that excited." I took his comments to be playful exaggeration, but statistics show him to bepardon the expressiondeadly serious. Medical errors outnumber automobile accidents, by a factor of two to three, depending on your source, as a cause of death in the United States. A hundred thousand people every year, give or take 20,000, die from mistakes that are largely matters of misinformation.