Digital processing system avoids 17.4 million drug errors in US in one year

Processing a prescription through an electronic ordering system can halve the likelihood of a drug error, and avert more than 17 million such incidents in US hospitals in one year alone, indicates research published online in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

And if much more widely adopted than at present, the system has the potential to cut out 50 million drug errors a year, calculate the researchers.

The US Institute of Medicine estimates that, on average, at least one mistake will be made with a patient's medication every day.

Computerised provider order entry systems, or CPOE for short, process prescriptions or test requests electronically, sending them directly to the relevant individual/department.

They aim to improve quality and safety by avoiding the need to rely on handwritten instructions, and by providing inbuilt checks on doses and potentially harmful interactions with other medications, so cutting down on the risk of mistakes.

The researchers systematically analysed the published evidence on the impact of CPOE on hospital drug errors and combined this with data on the adoption of CPOE by hospitals and the volume of medication orders processed, using several reliable sources.

These included the 2006 American Society of Health System Pharmacists Annual Survey, the 2007 American Hospital Association (AHA) Annual Survey (4701 hospitals in total), and the Association's own data on uptake of .

The final analysis calculated the estimated reduction in drug errors for 2008. It showed that CPOE halves the likelihood of a drug error. And when put in the context of the number of US hospitals that had adopted the system by 2008, the authors calculated that it cut these errors by 12.5% nationally.

That equates to around 17.4 million drug errors avoided in 2008 alone, they say.

Yet the AHA survey indicated that only one in three acute care hospitals had adopted CPOE by 2008. Larger, urban, and teaching hospitals were significantly more likely to have done so.

Those hospitals that had adopted the system were enthusiasts, with almost four out of 10 respondents saying that they processed 90% of their orders this way.

But a significant proportion (42%) said they used it less than half the time, equating to around a quarter of all medication orders processed by CPOE across the board, say the authors.

"Despite CPOE systems' effectiveness at preventing medication errors, adoption and use in US hospitals remains modest," write the authors, adding that "great potential" remains to cut the tally of drug errors still further.

"If all US hospitals adopted CPOE, assuming constant implementation levels of around 60%, 51 million medication errors per year could be averted compared with what would have been expected without CPOE," they say.

More information: Reduction in medication errors in hospitals due to adoption of computerized provider order entry systems, Online First, doi 10.1136/amiajnl-2012-001241

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New medics in death spike

Jun 02, 2010

Are new medical residents a threat to patients? According to Dr. David Phillips and Gwendolyn Barker from the University of California, San Diego in the US, fatal medication errors peak in July in teaching hospitals in particular, ...

Recommended for you

What are the chances that your dad isn't your dad?

Apr 16, 2014

How confident are you that the man you call dad is really your biological father? If you believe some of the most commonly-quoted figures, you could be forgiven for not being very confident at all. But how ...

New technology that is revealing the science of chewing

Apr 15, 2014

CSIRO's 3D mastication modelling, demonstrated for the first time in Melbourne today, is starting to provide researchers with new understanding of how to reduce salt, sugar and fat in food products, as well ...

After skin cancer, removable model replaces real ear

Apr 11, 2014

(HealthDay)—During his 10-year struggle with basal cell carcinoma, Henry Fiorentini emerged minus his right ear, and minus the hearing that goes with it. The good news: Today, the 56-year-old IT programmer ...

Italy scraps ban on donor-assisted reproduction

Apr 09, 2014

Italy's Constitutional Court on Wednesday struck down a Catholic Church-backed ban against assisted reproduction with sperm or egg donors that has forced thousands of sterile couples to seek help abroad.

User comments