Computerized prescription system reduces errors caused by bad handwriting

Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center a Leader by Implementing Physician Order Entry System

According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM) report "To Err is Human: Building a Better Health System," medication errors account for 7,000 deaths annually in the United States. The November 1999 report recommends that automated drug-ordering systems can effectively reduce the number of medication errors and deaths.

One hospital in Chicago, Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center, has been methodically implementing such a system since 1993. Most of Rush's medical center will be using it by the end of the year.

"It's great that the IOM recommends automation for drug ordering," said Dr. John H. Brill, medical director of information services at Rush. "But if a hospital were to begin installing an automated system after the IOM report was released, it would still take years to complete."

The Institute of Medicine, a part of the National Academy of Science, is considered the nation's top scientific advisory group.

Rush's physician order entry (POE) system (also known as provider order entry, since nurses and other clinicians also enter orders) is a computer-based program that replaces written and verbal instructions, including drug orders (prescriptions), with keystrokes into a networked system. Physicians log onto a PC, either in their office or the units where patients are being treated, including post-operative recovery rooms and intensive care units. The screens prompt the physicians through a series of questions about how the patient is to be cared for including what medications the patient should be receiving, what tests are required and even the nutrition requirements.

"POE can all but eliminate one of the most common mistakes made by physicians: errors caused by bad or illegible handwriting," he said. Besides creating a legible, date- and time-stamped order that the pharmacy and pathology can clearly read, there are o

Contact: Chris Martin
Rush University Medical Center

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