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Upgrading E-Prescribing Systems Can Reduce Rx Errors, Pose Challenges

Transitioning to new electronic prescribing systems can reduce medication errors but present challenges for physicians, according to a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, Healthcare IT News reports.

The study received funding support from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (Merrill, Healthcare IT News, 5/26). For the study, researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York evaluated e-prescribing among 17 physicians at an ambulatory clinic between February 2008 and August 2009.

  • Related to the clinic’s old system;
  • 12 weeks after the clinic implemented the new system; and
  • One year after the new system’s implementation.
  • Curbing Medication Errors

  • 557 e-prescribing errors under the old system;
  • 338 e-prescribing errors 12 weeks after implementation of the new system; and
  • 191 e-prescribing errors one year after implementation (Robeznieks, Modern Physician, 5/26).

Researchers noted that the overall rate of e-prescription errors dropped from 36% to 12% one year after the implementation of the new system. In addition, the rate of improper abbreviations fell from 24% to 6% one year after implementation.

However, researchers identified a temporary spike in the rate of non-abbreviation errors following the implementation of a new e-prescribing system. They found that non-abbreviation errors rose from 9% to about 18% 12 weeks after implementation, but declined to the baseline level one year after implementation (Healthcare IT News, 5/26).

Challenges for Physicians

Researchers also surveyed 15 of the physicians and found that 40% said they were not satisfied with the new e-prescribing system. In addition, 60% of the surveyed group said alerts in the new system were not useful and two-thirds said the new system slowed down prescription orders and refills.

Only about one-third of the surveyed group said they thought the new system was safer than the previous one (Modern Physician, 5/26). Researchers noted that transitioning new e-prescribing systems can create difficulties for physicians, but said their study demonstrates that such transitions are important for reducing medication errors (Healthcare IT News, 5/26).

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