San Diego’s Anvita Health Seeks to Prevent Medical Errors
[Corrected 12/10/09, 1:05 am to show Anvita does not store or manage EMRs.] Ahmed F. Ghouri was frustrated. Too often, the anesthesiologist had seen seemingly preventable prescribing errors that threatened the lives of patients. So nine years ago, with angel backing from doctors who shared his same frustrations, Ghouri co-founded Anvita Health, a San Diego company that analyzes clinical data and electronic medical records (EMRs) to provide health care providers the information they need to avoid mistakes.
Today, the market for electronic health records is poised for growth. As part of its economic stimulus package, the Obama administration will spend billions of dollars to hasten the digitization of medical records in physician’s offices. Doctors who buy and use electronic health records technology can qualify for more than $40,000 in incentive payments over a period of years.
One impetus for the program is the mounting evidence that medication errors carry a tremendous cost. In 2006, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) said medication errors injure 1.5 million patients a year, and the extra costs of treating mistakes made in hospitals total $3.5 billion annually. The IOM called for technological solutions to prescribing, administering and monitoring drugs.
“The problem is not a single bad doctor or bad hospital, but primitive systems of quality control,” says Ghouri, who is also Anvita’s chief medical officer. For example, he recalled one case in which a patient experienced gastric bleeding after erroneously receiving aspirin. That triggered a sad chain of events: emergency surgery, a blood transfusion and later, a liver transplant because the transfused blood was infected with hepitatis C virus. “All this could have been avoided if the patient had not been given aspirin in the first place,” Ghouri said.
Anvita, which has about 40 employees, believes its software can reduce human error and fill the sort of information gaps that can lead to near-calamitous outcomes. Besides analyzing electronic medical records, the software is continually reloaded with the latest medical research and drug information to provide up-to-date advisories on drug interactions and medical tests and procedures. Customers include Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a teaching hospital for Harvard Medical School, and Google Health, an online consumer service that stores personal health information that individuals can share with their physicians.
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