The source of the

By M.L. Baker  |  Posted 2005-03-15 Print this article Print

errors"> For example, the United States Pharmacopeia has conducted annual Web-based surveys of medical errors since 1999. (The surveys are better known by the name of the error reporting program, Medmarx.) In 2003, the latest year for which figures are available, 84 percent of the 570 participating facilities reported computer entry as a cause of error.
Computer entry was ranked as the fourth leading cause of error, and it has increased in rank every year since 2000.
Computer entry was reported as a cause for 13 percent of errors. [The top three causes of errors were performance deficit (38 percent), not following protocols (18 percent), and inaccurate or missing transcripts (13 percent); survey participants could select more than one cause of error.] One response to such information is that physicians need more training and more willingness to be trained. This is true, but the survey indicates that staff training can only go so far. Participants who listed additional sources of error along with computer error most frequently picked distractions and performance deficit, meaning that the professional was able to use a computer competently, but simply made a mistake in a particular instance. Read more here about a report that shows that IT can play a key role in creating a more integrated health care system. Overall, evidence indicates that CPOE does prevent errors. In fact, the Medmarx survey found that inpatient facilities with CPOE reported one harmful medication error per 100,000 doses, while those without reported two such errors per 100,000 doses. But these results do not leave room for complacency. Instead of self-congratulation, vendors need vigilance. In the words of the survey, they must "ensure that errors are truly averted and not perpetuated within the system." M. L. Baker writes about biotechnology and health IT for She can be reached at

Monya Baker is co-editor of's Health Care Center. She has written for publications including the journal Nature Biotechnology, the Acumen Journal of Sciences and the American Medical Writers Association, among others, and has worked as a consultant with biotechnology companies. A former high school science teacher, Baker holds a bachelor's degree in biology from Carleton College and a master's of education from Harvard.

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