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Computerized Prescription Order Errors a Risk for Patients

Last Updated: May 28, 2009.

Computerized provider order entry systems are prone to input errors that may put patients at risk, according to a study published in the May 25 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

THURSDAY, May 28 (HealthDay News) -- Computerized provider order entry systems are prone to input errors that may put patients at risk, according to a study published in the May 25 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Hardeep Singh, M.D., of the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, and colleagues enrolled 33 pharmacists who reported inconsistencies in communication on 532 prescriptions, out of a total of 55,992 prescriptions over a four-month period. The inconsistencies were between the information entered in the structured template and the information in the free-text content field.

The most common inconsistencies involved drug dosage, which affected certain medications more than others, and were more common in an inpatient setting and in the surgical subspecialty, the researchers found. The errors could have caused moderate to severe harm in approximately 20 percent of the cases.

"In spite of attempted standardization of data entry, inconsistent communication poses a significant risk to safety achieved by computerized provider order entry. We found that errors related to inconsistent information in a state-of-the-art computerized provider order entry system occurred in at least 1 percent of all prescriptions, and this rate increased to at least 5 percent in a sample of prescriptions with associated free-text comments," the authors write. "Although most errors we studied did not reach the patient because of pharmacist intervention, they pose a significant potential risk to patients.

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