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More Errors From Computerized Prescriptions

It was thought that computerized prescription could be used to avoid medical mistakes, but now it seems computerized prescription systems // may lead to even more errors.

It is known that adverse drug events injure or kill more than 770,000 people in hospitals each year. One way hospitals are trying to cut back on that number is with computerized physician-order entry systems. But according to a new study, use of computerized systems may actually be leading to more mistakes.

There are a few reasons to think computerized order entry systems would be better than written orders. For one, the legibility of the handwriting of many doctors has been shown to cause a few mistakes in the past. Computerized prescription orders can electronically zip to the pharmacy in a matter of minutes. They are also more easily linked to drug interaction warnings. Plus, no more paper could translate to big savings for many health institutions.

It was found that computerized order systems resulted in reducing medication errors by as much as 81 percent. However, handwriting aside, the new systems are leading to other kinds of medical errors. About 22 different ways medication errors were made easier by using computerized systems. The research team grouped the errors into two categories -- information errors and human-to-machine interface flaws.

An example of an information error is a physician not seeing a warning about an antibiotic in the computer system because the warning had originally been written on a patient's chart and not transferred into the computer. Also, difficult-to-use programs can cause human-to-machine interface flaws. In conclusion, the researchers say doctors and hospitals need to quickly address problems with their computerized order systems, or medical errors will continue.
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