Workarounds in Healthcare Facilities However, this kind of workaround has a number of implications. First, the photograph, and the instructions given, bypasses the facility's electronic database. Secondly, there is the possibility of data breach should the mobile devices fall into the wrong hands. Thirdly, the existing system may never get updated, as the facility's IT unit may never be made aware of these kinds of exchanges.
Workarounds refer to the alternative methods "of accomplishing an activity when the usual system / process is not working well" (Pennsylvania Patient Safety Advisory, 2013). In as much as workarounds may temporarily solve existing problems, they also indicate inefficiencies and deficiencies in the current system. Workarounds may at times be effective and more convenient, compared to the system in existence, but a regular use of the same could endanger both the safety of patients and the facility's reputation. A workaround can, therefore, be termed as an at-risk behavior that does not yield concrete long-term solutions to existing problems. Therefore, "workarounds perceived as necessary by the user for patient care, efficiency or safety, may be beneficial, neutral, or dangerous for patients' safety" (Koppel, Wetterneck, Telles & Karsh, 2008, p. 1).
A description of Workarounds in a Selected Facility
Workarounds can take a variety of forms. For instance, I know of a situation where practitioners bring to work their personal mobile devices and facilitate workarounds using the same. These devices include personal smart phones, tablets, laptops, etc. A range of workarounds is involved in this case. One of the more common ones, for instance, involves storing or transferring patient data, to other workers, using the up-to-date applications available on such devices. In some cases, this data exchange takes the form of text, e-mail messages, or social media platforms.
One possible scenario is; a nurse sends a doctor a picture of, say, a patient's wound, via her personal device. The doctor views the sent picture, on his device as well, and then gives instructions to the nurse. The ...
Workarounds; Trends and Statistics
Workarounds have been a common phenomenon within the influential health sector; but again, so have the number of breaches. The federal government stepped in, in an attempt to curb the spread of the same, through the HITECH Act of 2009. The Act requires health facilities to report to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) any data breaches in their units, which involve at least 500 individuals. As at the 21st of February this year, a massive 543 such breaches had been reported. It is estimated that "these breaches of health information have affected more than 21 million individuals" (Intel, 2013). Most of these data breaches are as a result of stolen devices.
Why Practitioners Opt for Workarounds
Despite the worrying trend in data breaches and the dangers involved, most health practitioners still engage in workarounds. A survey carried out by HIMSS Media at the beginning of this year sought to find out the reasons for this. 674 health workers were interviewed (Intel, 2013). A majority of them cited the inefficient and out-of-date nature of the current health systems as the core reason for preferring workarounds. A significant number felt that their facilities' IT units were either not aggressive enough in embracing advanced technologies, or designed applications that were rigid and restrictive (Intel,…
However, this kind of workaround has a number of implications. First, the photograph, and the instructions given, bypasses the facility's electronic database. Secondly, there is the possibility of data breach should the mobile devices fall into the wrong hands. Thirdly, the existing system may never get updated, as the facility's IT unit may never be made aware of these kinds of exchanges.
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