Preventing medication errors: using AI to avoid mistakes and save lives

By Natalie Singer-Velush

Through a personal experience in her own life, Mandi Hall, a Microsoft senior user researcher, came to learn about the high rate of preventable medical errors in the US. The instances of medication dispensing mistakes were particularly troubling. Every day, millions of Americans rely on pharmacies to properly dispense medications by providing accurate drugs, dosage, strength, quantities, label information, and instructions. This dispensing process is manual, and there are tens of millions of errors annually. This leaves many patients at risk.

Hall wanted to tackle the problem with technology and her co-workers. They decided to build a system to assist pharmacy technicians and pharmacists through the use of machine learning and video capture. This type of system could alert users in real-time of medication dispensing errors. Hall talks with us about how her project came together, what it was like behind the scenes, and how she thinks others can pursue their own ideas.

What inspired you to pursue your idea?

I have a son who is 11 months old. He was given the wrong dose of medication and had adverse effects. This is what motivated me to find solutions to reduce medication errors through the use of technology. Medical errors, especially medication errors, are a major issue in the US, and they are preventable.

What did you hope to achieve?

We wanted to show proof of concept for the solution and to work with a diverse team to come up with an impactful solution.

What was it like to assemble a special team just for this project, and to do it fast?

I was amazed by the interest I received for this topic. Employees from four different countries reached out to me to participate. Having such a diverse team from all different backgrounds and with so much varied expertise allowed us to create a working demo during the [relatively short] Microsoft Hackathon time frame.

What advice do you have for others who have a cool idea or a passion for making change?

I encourage others to follow their passion and post their idea. An event like a hackathon is a great opportunity to get an idea from proof of concept to a working demo. Connect with people who share your passion and are motivated to make an impact through the use of technology, and then enable everyone to leverage their unique skills and perspectives.

Explore more employee projects at The Garage Wall of Fame.