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Medication Errors Could Be Cut: Experts
Date:4/27/2009

Two reports show promise of computers, pharmacists for proper prescribing

MONDAY, April 27 (HealthDay News) -- Medication errors and adverse drug reactions cost lives and dollars each year in the United States, but two new reports suggest ways hospitals and pharmacists can work to reduce these mistakes.

Medication errors are one of the most common medical errors, affecting at least 1.5 million people every year and costing the health-care system between $77 billion and $177 billion annually, researchers point out in the April 27 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

In the first report, researchers led by Dr. Jeffrey L. Schnipper, of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, used a computer system to keep track of the medications patients were taking when they were admitted to the hospital and the medications they were taking when they were discharged.

"It turns out that we commit about 1.5 errors per patient either for the admissions orders in the hospital or, much more commonly, in the discharge orders, which is kind of appalling," Schnipper said. "These are errors with potential for patient harm. There are about three times as many errors without potential for patient harm."

For the study, Schnipper's team randomly assigned 322 patients from two hospitals to have their medications entered into a computer program at admission that was designed to reconcile those medications with the ones they were taking when they left the hospital. In addition, the researchers tried having different people take the patient's medication history and keep track of all the medications they were taking. These included doctors, nurses and pharmacists.

Among the 162 patients in the program, there were 1.05 medication errors per patient compared with 1.44 errors among patients receiving usual care -- a 28 percent reduction in errors.

Of the errors, 43 among patients in the prog
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