Medicine 2.0 May Reduce Medication Errors

Medication errors in hospitals reduced through electronic entry system

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Even the most experienced hospital workers can make mistakes. However, tech savvy hospitals that adopt the right equipment can help prevent medication mix-ups from happening.

Using a computerized entry system to process and track medicine orders reduced the number of errors made in medicine requests by more than 12 percent at hospitals across the United States, new research showed.

Adopting the electronic entry system could prevent millions of medication errors and save consumers millions of dollars each year. 

"Confirm all of your prescriptions with a pharmacist."

Researchers led by David Radley, PhD, from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement in Cambridge, Massachusetts, looked at how well an electronic prescription system reduced the number of medication mistakes in hospitals across the nation.

They reviewed previous studies and estimated how computerized provider order entry (CPOE) systems decreased the number of errors.

The CPOE system tracks drug dosage information, health alerts and provides support on clinical decisions.

Though some studies have shown that the system can make errors, it is designed to "improve safety, quality and value of patient care," according to the authors.

Researchers reviewed surveys and data from the American Hospital Association (AHA), the AHA Hospital Electronic Health Record Adoption Survey and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists in 2008.

More than 4,700 hospitals were included in the AHA survey. Excluded were federally owned hospitals, those that provided long-term care, and those that were located outside the US.

About 34 percent of the included hospitals adopted CPOE. Larger hospitals were more likely to adopt the technology over medium- or small-sized hospitals.

Furthermore, CPOE adoption was higher among urban hospitals than rural ones, and among private not-for profit hospitals over public ones.

They found that processing prescriptions through the CPOE system lowered the chance of an error by an average of 48 percent in 2008.

The researchers predicted that the errors would continue to decrease by 12.5 percent within a year, which is about equal to 17.4 million fewer errors.

Though the frequency of errors was reduced, the researchers weren't sure whether this reduction also lowered harm for patients.

The reduction in errors might help estimate the impact that other health IT areas may have on patients and the healthcare system, the researchers said. Future research can help structure policy and funding decisions.

"The projected reduction in medication errors represents an important intermediate indicator of potential gains as health IT systems are expanded and more deeply integrated in care delivery systems nationwide," researchers wrote in their report.

"However, it is unclear whether reduced medication errors would translate into reduced patient harm from medications."

The authors noted several limitations to their study, including how errors were defined and that the included hospitals may not be representative of all the hospitals across the US.

The study was published February 20 in the Journal of American Medical Informatics Association.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality under the US Department of Health and Human Services funded the study. No conflicts of interest were reported.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 23, 2013
Last Updated:
February 26, 2013