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Computerized Doctors Order Reduce Prescription Errors

According to a new review of studies,doctors are famous for sloppy scribbling and handwritten prescriptions lead to thousands of medication errors each year. Electronics to the rescue: U.S. hospitals that switched to computerized physician order entry systems saw a 66 percent drop in prescription errors.

Illegible handwriting and transcription errors are responsible for as much as 61 percent of medication errors in hospitals. A simple mistake such as putting the decimal point in the wrong place can have serious consequences because a patients dosage could be 10 times the recommended amount.

Drugs with similar names are another common source of error, such as the pain medication Celebrex and the antidepressant Celexa, or the tranquilizer Zyprexa and the antihistamine Zyrtec.

These medication errors are very painful for doctors, as well as the patients. Nobody wants to make a mistake, said Tatyana Shamliyan, lead review author and a research associate at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.

The University of Minnesota researchers looked at 12 studies that compared medication errors with handwritten and computerized prescriptions from in-hospital doctors. Nearly a quarter of all hospital patients experience medication errors, a rate that has increased from 5 percent in 1992, according to the study.

Medication errors include prescribing the wrong drug or incorrect dosage or administering a drug at the wrong time or not at all. Most errors typically go undetected unless they led to an adverse event, said review co-author Robert Kane.

In addition to improving patient safety, computerized systems make life easier for pharmacists. They dont have to decipher the chicken scratch, said Karl Gumpper, director of the pharmacy informatics and technology section of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, based in Bethesda, Md. Pharmacists frequently have to call the prescribing docto
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