July 6, 2011

Study Finds Electronic Rx Error Rate Equal to Handwritten

For those employers who have invested mega-dollars in electronic medical records and prescription writing tools, this study demonstrated that those electronic prescriptions have just as many errors in them as the old-fashioned handwritten ones that physician offices fax to the pharmacies.   The study research was sponsored by a grant provided by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, with results published in the June 30, 2011 Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

Basically, a review of 3,850 computer-generated prescriptions showed that there were 452 Rx with 466 errors.  Of those, 163 (or 35%) were errors that could possibly cause a patient harm.   (It should be noted that while 95 of these were considered serious and the remainder significant, none were life-threatening.)

The research found that better training and tools within the software which forced a stop in the process when missing or erroneous information was entered and recognized are needed to improve the error rate.  Unfortunately, part of the problem is the software itself, with some systems performing better than others.

So, you may want to check with your vendor (to see if they are working on code improvements) and your physicians to identify areas where more staff training might be helpful.

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