Computerized Prescriptions Reduce Errors

Illegible handwriting and transcription errors are responsible for as much as 61 percent of medication errors in hospitals. A simple mistake such as putting the decimal point in the wrong place can have serious consequences because a patient’s dosage could be ten times the recommended amount. Drugs with similar names are another common source of error.

The University of Minnesota researchers looked at 12 studies that compared medication errors with handwritten and computerized prescriptions from in-hospital doctors. Nearly a quarter of all hospital patients experience medication errors, a rate that has increased from five percent in 1992, according to the study.

Medication errors include prescribing the wrong drug or incorrect dosage or administering a drug at the wrong time or not at all. “Most errors typically go undetected unless they led to an adverse event,” said review co-author Robert Kane from the University of Minnesota.

In addition to improving patient safety, computerized systems make life easier for pharmacists. “They don’t have to decipher the chicken scratch,” said Karl Gumpper, director of the pharmacy informatics and technology section of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, based in Bethesda, Md. Pharmacists frequently have to call the prescribing doctor or interview the patient because of problems in deciphering handwriting.

Currently, only about nine percent of hospitals have computerized prescription systems. Some hospitals have stand-alone systems, while others have computerized prescriptions as part of an electronic medical record system. In hospitals with a computerized prescription system, the number of medication errors dropped, especially among adult patients. However, the rate of one type of error —prescribing the wrong drug — did not decrease, and in five studies, the number of adverse events from drug errors did not decrease.

COMPAMED.de; Source: Center for the Advancement of Health