The establishment of a successful quality control program requires a systematic approach to the collection and management of large amounts of information. This information must be collected as it is generated because it is too expensive to retrieve it from patient records. The routine analysis of the information may be done on a periodic basis, but there must be a preliminary review to detect events that require immediate intervention. It is this need for timely interventions that make computers invaluable in medical quality control.
Computers are not a substitute for proper administrative procedures, but they are invaluable for performing the repetitive tasks that are intrinsic to an effective quality control program. For example, the computer can scan each incident report as it is produced to detect specific events, such as an outbreak of a contagious disease. This type of event demands immediate investigation, yet it is very difficult for a quality control manager to take the time to scan every incident report before it is incorporated into the quality control data base. Even in a small facility, where an administrator may be familiar with the entire quality control process, a computer can reduce the chance of overlooking a significant event.
The central management problem in large facilities is the enormity of the data base that must be evaluated. Incident reports must be correlated with infection control data, pharmacy data, and data from many other JCAH mandated oversight committees. The disjointed nature of these reports makes it very difficult to correlate them without the use of computer techniques.
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