For hospitals, cutting down the number of prescription drug errors is a key component in delivering better quality care. One way to achieve that is for caregivers to ditch the notepad and use e-prescribing technology, according to a study in PLoS Medicine — a journal from the Public Library of Science (PLoS).
PLoS conducted research of two Australian teaching hospitals and found that implementing commercial e-prescribing systems resulted in reductions in prescribing error rates by 60%.
The results were obtained through a before and after study, specifically by using the medication chart audit of 3,291 admissions — 1,923 at baseline and 1,368 after e-prescribing. The first hospital used Cerner Corp’s Millennium system in one ward and three other wards did not receive the system, which provided the control groups. The second hospital implemented iSoft’s MedChart system in two wards, and error rates were compared before and after.
Researchers found that using the Cerner-based system resulted in a decline in errors from 6.25 per admission to 2.12 in the first hospital. The iSoft MedChart system also reported a decline in errors from 3.62 to 1.46 in the second hospital.
Additionally, the second hospital had a decrease in errors based on sizeable “reduction in unclear, illegal, and incomplete orders,” according to the report. The combination of unclear and incomplete prescriptions — often times due to illegible handwriting — dropped to single digits at both hospitals after implementing the systems.
“People can actually read the prescribing orders now,” said the study’s lead author Johanna Westbrook, director of the centre for health systems and safety research at the University of New South Wales in an interview with Shots, NPR’s health blog. “You’re not relying on trying to interpret handwriting.”
However, Westbrook also said that software design can bring about errors that would not occur using a paper chart, and used the example of selecting the wrong drop-down menu within e-prescribing systems.