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Computerized Doctors Order Reduce Prescription Errors

r or interview the patient because of problems in deciphering handwriting.

Currently, only about 9 percent of hospitals have computerized prescription systems. Some hospitals have stand-alone systems, while others have computerized prescriptions as part of an electronic medical record system.

Each year, more health systems implement computerized order entry systems and more will do so as electronic medical records become more common. Its a growth industry, Kane said.

A small handful of institutions, including Brigham and Womens Hospital in Boston and Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, have been leaders in integrating computerized prescriptions, experts say.

It takes 12 to 36 months to implement computerized prescribing system, Gumpper said. Currently, no industry standard system exists. Some hospitals use systems created in-house, while others use commercial products created by companies such as Epic Systems, based in Verona, Wis. or McKesson Corp., based in San Francisco.

Some systems guide doctors through the prescription process, asking questions that might help avoid errors. Some even use voice recognition.

There are two reasons why more hospitals have not switched to electronic prescription systems, says Arthur Levin, director of the Center for Medical Consumers in New York. First, Physicians, like most of us, dont like change, he said. In addition, electronic prescription systems are costly and difficult to integrate into the complex, sometimes-chaotic hospital structure.

Regardless, in hospitals with a computerized prescription system, the number of medication errors dropped, especially among adult patients. However, the rate of one type of error prescribing the wrong drug did not decrease, and in five studies, the number of adverse events from drug errors did not decrease.

Each year, more than one-half million patients sustain injuries o
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