Computer techniques are very useful in the documentation of review functions. The production of proper documentation demands meticulous attention to the detailing of all legally significant events and their disposition. This type of work is difficult to do manually because its repetitive nature leads to errors and low morale. In contrast, the generation of detailed reports is simple in a computer-based system. As an additional benefit, these reports can be archived in a machine-readable form, thereby saving the clerical costs of filing a large volume of written reports.
The basic needs for documentation can be satisfied by computer-generated profiles on the practice of the medical staff, combined with good documentation of the various oversight committee meetings. Most quality control tasks are a matter of assembling and reviewing data with set protocols. It does not make sense to require professional members of an oversight committee to perform this routine data analysis. Such a committee has only a limited amount of time, which is most effectively spent on matters requiring the exercise of professional judgment. It is much more effective to have a computer organize and summarize the necessary data, then have the oversight committee review the processed data.
The lack of appropriate computer resources should not prevent health care providers from using a systems analysis approach to quality control. The most difficult part of automating a task is the identification and simplification of the task. The identification simplification of quality control tasks make it easier to do the task manually and also make the tasks easier to automate in the future.
The development of inexpensive, but powerful, small computers has now made it possible for a hospital to utilize several small computers rather than be dependent on one large computer. This simplifies the automation of management functions because the commitment of resources for a microcomputer system is small enough to allow several different systems to be tried. While large computers are still much more powerful than microcomputers, it is often simpler to program a small dedicated computer than a large system that is devoted to other tasks such as billing. It is also much easier to protect confidential information on a devoted machine than on a remote computer. This is important in preserving medical confidences and in maintaining the legal privilege of investigation reports on legally significant events. The availability of inexpensive computers, combined with proper management control techniques, allows health care providers in large facilities to manage rationally the mass of quality control information that such facilities generate.
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