Proper implementation of e-drug ordering needed

Proper implementation of e-drug ordering needed

July 1, 2005

Despite high hopes that computerized medication ordering and monitoring systems can help hospitals reduce errors, recent analyses find just the opposite may be true.

Washington, D.C.-Despite high hopes that computerized medication ordering and monitoring systems can help hospitals reduce errors in drug prescribing and administration, recent analyses find just the opposite may be true. A study conducted at the Veterans Hospital in Salt Lake City, published in May in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that some kind of prescribing error or adverse event occurred with almost half of the patients admitted to the hospital. Its computer system helped eliminate problems related to physician handwriting, but not those involved with administering medications or selecting correct drugs and doses.

Another study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine found that computerized physician order entry systems may actually generate medication errors by displaying incomplete and confusing information and using inflexible ordering formats. And the U.S. Pharmacopeia reported in December 2004 that nearly 20% of hospital and health system medication errors involve computerization or automation.

Experts maintain that the solution lies not in fixing the software but in paying more attention to properly implementing electronic drug ordering programs. Better information systems also will help.