Do computerized records result in less prescription errors?

We recently wrote concerning skepticism about the wide use of electronic records as a part of medical care. The skeptics felt these records were often the blame for certain medical errors. However, other studies have suggested that, if used correctly, these electronic records can reduce certain types of medication and prescription errors.

A paper prepared in part by a University of Pennsylvania Emeritus Professor suggests that the use of a computerized system for the ordering of prescription drugs has actually reduced medication errors by as much as 12.5 percent. This would mean that there was over 17 million less medication errors across the country in just one year.

It is estimated that at least a quarter of medication errors resulting in patient injury could have been avoided. Computerized systems can warn about errors regarding the amount of drugs prescribed, adverse interactions that one prescription may have with another, etc. However, the effectiveness of these sorts of alerts in the reduction of errors still deserves further study.

Approximately one-third of hospitals have so far used computerized records in the care provided. Yet most of these hospitals implementing the records are larger facilities located in urban areas. We still do not know what the exact effectiveness will be in using a computerized system in all hospitals.

Whether errors occur because a computerized system is not used or errors occur due to the use of computerized records, from the perspective of an attorney representing an injured patient it is still medical malpractice. It’s always possible that any reduction of medication errors is not so much due to the use of electronic records. Instead, it may be that the hospitals using these records are more open to change and are willing to try new approaches in the reduction of medical errors.

Source: MedPage Today, “Computer Systems Cut Hospital Drug Errors,” by Nancy Walsh, Feb. 22, 2013