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Ignoring MedicAlert risks patient safety

News release

More Health Providers risk patient safety, by ignoring MedicAlert® Service System

The MedicAlert Foundation is urging other district health boards to follow Canterbury’s lead to put in place policies and connected IT systems that ensure the internationally recognised MedicAlert Foundation Service System is utilised as designed, to prevent avoidable harm, improve patient safety and respect health consumers’ rights.

“When a MedicAlert Medical ID gets ignored, avoidable incidents happen, people get harmed and people die,” chief executive, Murray Lord, said.

“The social impact on the effected person, their family, the wider community and Government can be massive and the hard-earned reputation of health providers and the careers of health practitioners can be ruined, all for the sake of a few seconds of good practice and due diligence.”

Mr Lord was commenting following the release on Monday of a report into the Eunice Richardson case, by the Health and Disability Commissioner. Systematic failings have occurred.

In the case of Mrs Richardson, who died while a patient of Canterbury DHB, health practitioners ignored her MedicAlert Medical ID bracelet and the life-saving information on it. Two years on, the family remain heartbroken.

A routine and cautious few seconds would have prevented this tragedy. Mrs Richardson’s MedicAlert Medical ID and her MedicAlert 24/7 electronic Patient Vitals Service should have been checked through a secure online connected Health IT solution, before drugs were administered to her.

“The MedicAlert system is proven and trusted – it just needs to be implemented and used as it was designed, to prevent such deadly outcomes,” Mr Lord said.

MedicAlert Foundation also recommends all DHBs implement the MedicAlert National Health and Safety Protocols. The Protocols were launched following widespread consultation over 3 years. “When lives are at risk, it was most important we take the time to get these right,” said Mr Lord.

This includes introducing policies, systems and routines, including access to and utilisation of the MedicAlert New Zealand nationwide electronic Allergy Register within its Patient Vitals Service.

Mr Lord said: “Ignoring a person’s clinically validated and health consumer moderated MedicAlert Medical ID is a contemptable and blatant breach of a Health Consumer Rights. There should be no question about whether or not DHBs are correctly utilising MedicAlert’s system – people’s lives are at risk and, unfortunately, the very tragic death of Eunice Richardson proves this point.”

In light of this case, the growing cost of ACC to mitigate harm and growing incidence of reported harm by HQSC, Mr Lord said the public now have every good reason to expect government budget supported change at the highest levels, to implement the internationally recognised MedicAlert system so it is utilised correctly, including provision of funding to connect MOH systems and all DHB’s to the MedicAlert secure connected Medical Alerting system, to protect the health, welfare, safety and rights of all New Zealanders.

“Such compliance requirements should also be written into Government contracts with health providers. If health providers are not prepared to take the initiative to connect to the MedicAlert system and solve this health consumer safety problem of their own accord, the Government needs to take decisive action and implement budget supported policy or regulation to make it happen.

“Unfortunately, since Laurie Richardson was first reported on this matter a few weeks ago, the Foundation has received calls indicating other DHBs and an ambulance service provider may also be failing to reliably utilise the MedicAlert system. Consequently, more health consumers may be getting exposed to potentially very serious harm as time passes.

When health systems fail, as they have in this case, a simple easy to recognise and use MedicAlert Service Supported Medical ID, can be a person’s first line and last line of protection.

“Wherever you go, MedicAlert can go with you,” Mr Lord said.

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