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

February 20, 2013, British Medical Journal

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.

Explore further: Computer order entry systems reduce preventable adverse drug events

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

Related Stories

Computer order entry systems reduce preventable adverse drug events

February 7, 2012
Despite a national mandate to implement electronic health records and computer order entry systems (CPOE) by 2014, only approximately 30 percent of hospitals nationwide have done so and around 40 percent of hospitals in the ...

Large hospital successfully implements CPOE system with clinical decision support for radiology

February 1, 2012
In an effort to reduce the inappropriate use of medical imaging and improve quality of care, a large, tertiary-care hospital has successfully implemented a computerized physician order entry (CPOE) system with clinical decision ...

Commercial electronic prescribing systems can reduce medication errors in hospital patients

January 31, 2012
A study published in this week's PLoS Medicine shows that commercial electronic prescribing systems (commonly known as e-prescribing, in which prescribers use a computer to order medications for their patients through a system ...

Recommended for you

Best of Last Year—The top Medical Xpress articles of 2017

December 20, 2017
It was a good year for medical research as a team at the German center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, Magdeburg, found that dancing can reverse the signs of aging in the brain. Any exercise helps, the team found, but dancing ...

Pickled in 'cognac', Chopin's heart gives up its secrets

November 26, 2017
The heart of Frederic Chopin, among the world's most cherished musical virtuosos, may finally have given up the cause of his untimely death.

Sugar industry withheld evidence of sucrose's health effects nearly 50 years ago

November 21, 2017
A U.S. sugar industry trade group appears to have pulled the plug on a study that was producing animal evidence linking sucrose to disease nearly 50 years ago, researchers argue in a paper publishing on November 21 in the ...

Female researchers pay more attention to sex and gender in medicine

November 7, 2017
When women participate in a medical research paper, that research is more likely to take into account the differences between the way men and women react to diseases and treatments, according to a new study by Stanford researchers.

Drug therapy from lethal bacteria could reduce kidney transplant rejection

August 3, 2017
An experimental treatment derived from a potentially deadly microorganism may provide lifesaving help for kidney transplant patients, according to an international study led by investigators at Cedars-Sinai.

Exploring the potential of human echolocation

June 25, 2017
People who are visually impaired will often use a cane to feel out their surroundings. With training and practice, people can learn to use the pitch, loudness and timbre of echoes from the cane or other sounds to navigate ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.