Computers prove to greatly reduce prescription errors

ting a prescription that is incomplete or that contains a formulation that does not exist. For example, instead of prescribing 500 mg of ibuprofen, which is not an available dose, a physician can look at the doses that do exist and choose from those. This reduces the risk of dosing errors and reduces the need for pharmacists to clarify the prescription.

Patient information, such as name, medical record number and age, were also included in the computer-written prescription. This information, along with the prescription and prescriber's name, was then printed legibly for a pharmacist to read. All the information becomes part of the patient's computer medical record instantly. This is an improvement from the standard handwritten format, which uses a prescription pad, a stamp of the patient's information and the handwritten prescription, creating only one copy of the prescription and requiring a separate entry into the medical record.

The research team hoped the computer-assisted prescription system would create legible prescriptions that decreased errors related to dosing, missing information, incorrect information, legibility and ordering of drugs that weren't available. These types of errors require a pharmacist to track down the prescriber to clarify before the prescription can be filled. Although this occurs infrequently, it takes extra time from the pharmacist and could lead to increase time to get a prescription filled.

The study proved their theory. With the assistance of the OHSU Hospital Pharmacy, researchers were able to track the notations on the prescription made by pharmacists when making a clarification. Of the 2,326 handwritten prescriptions filled by OHSU Hospital's Pharmacy before implementation of the computer program, 2.3 percent of them contained errors. The OHSU Hospital Pharmacy received 1,594 computer-assisted prescriptions, only 0.8 percent of which contain errors that required clarification by a pharmacist.


Contact: Christine Pashley
503 494-8231
Oregon Health & Science University

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