Study Finds Electronic Prescribing Records of Limited Use

Tracking patient prescriptions alone is of little use in enhancing patient safety, according to a researcher at Chicago's Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Further study will determine if electronic medical records can make a dent in physician errors that l

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As many as 400,000 deaths annually in the United States are estimated to be caused by physician error, making it the second highest cause of death according to the American Association of the Advancement of Science. Physician error is largely due to decision-making with an incomplete case history. Implementing electronic record-keeping for patients is one solution often touted to alleviate the error rate.

Earlier this week Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, one of the most highly regarded hospitals in the country, announced that its transition to a computerized prescription system has been ineffective so far in reducing the occurrence of patient medication errors. In a study published in the medical journal Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers found that their CPOE (computerized prescriber order entry) system did decrease medication error. However, it did not have the corresponding result of a decrease in patient harm due to medication error.

In a statement released by Northwestern Memorial, Anne Bobb, RPh, a patient safety research pharmacist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital said that "because current CPOE systems have limited artificial intelligence, the involvement of the physicians and pharmacists remains critical to the medication process. Pharmacists understand the complexity of medications and realize how many prescriptions are changed or altered on a daily basis before they reach the patient."

Still, Northwestern Memorial is currently implementing electronic medical records that may promote adequate recordkeeping so that physician error may be reduced. The data in the current study will provide baseline data to use for comparison in a research study once the electronic records and prescription systems are fully implemented.

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