stephen at melbpc.org.au
stephen at melbpc.org.au
Thu Feb 2 03:05:08 AEDT 2012
E-prescriptions could slash errors in hospitals (1st February 2012)
Electronic prescribing technology could reduce mistakes made by hospitals
in medication prescriptions by up to 66%, a study has found.
The study of the technology in two hospitals found procedural errors such
as incomplete, unclear medication orders fell by more than 90%. Serious
errors, including the prescription of incorrect drugs or doses, fell by
The results of the study, by a team from the University of New South
Wales, are published in the journal PLoS Medicine today.
Until now, there has been skepticism about the ability of the
commercially available technology to address intractable errors in
prescriptions. An e-health system to be introduced by the federal
government in July has attracted criticism that it could increase risks
But the study leader, Professor Johanna Westbrook, from the Universitys
Australian Institute of Health Innovation, said the research provided
solid support for the benefits of e-prescribing systems, which allow
doctors to enter prescriptions into computer programs that usually show
what other drugs a patient is using.
Prescribing errors are one of the most significant patient safety issues
internationally, Professor Westbrook said. We had a lot of hope about
this technology, but before this study there hasnt been much evidence.
We found there was a reduction in serious errors of 44%, which is a very
significant result. Procedural errors went down dramatically, as youd
expect when theres no handwriting involved.
Professor Westbrook cautioned that the US-developed technology introduced
a new range of clinical errors, typically caused when doctors chose the
wrong option from a drop-down menu.
But when we looked at the new errors that were introduced, they were not
nearly as severe as the sort that we previously encountered. They were
relatively minor and could be addressed with better system monitoring.
A 2006 report from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academics in
America found that medication errors harm 1.5 million people in the
United States every year. The resulting injuries cost at least $3.5
billion in extra medical costs to treat.
There has been some resistance to this technology here because its very
expensive to introduce, and its expensive to change the way doctors and
nurses work, Professor Westbrook said. But in the long run, this
research shows that it is worthwhile.
Professor of Pharmacology Ric Day, who helped implement a commercial e-
prescribing system at St Vincents Hospital, said that from a
clinicians point of view this is an incredible result given the
prevalence and the intractability of the problem.
Its even more significant given that we expect to see greater
reductions once user support is added to the systems.
Staff at St Vincents were required to demonstrate they could use the
computer system before they were allowed to prescribe or deliver any
medications, he said.
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