Posted On: February 2, 2012 by Montross Miller Muller Mendelson & Kennedy

Research Indicates Electronic Prescriptions Reduce Risk of Errors

pills%20spilled.jpgThousands of people are killed every year due to medical errors, and a large number of these errors have to do with prescription mistakes. According to new research, doctors who use electronic prescription tools to prescribe medications for patients not only make fewer errors, but also increase their patients’ adherence to medications.

Electronic prescriptions refer to the use of computer devices by doctors to prescribe medications for patients. These prescription tools do not involve the use of pen and paper, and this translates into great benefits. For one thing, a doctor who uses an electronic prescription system is less likely to make errors compared to a doctor who uses a pen and paper to write out a prescription. Additionally, with an e- prescription a pharmacist does not have to decipher a doctor’s illegible handwriting. Many prescription errors occur every year because pharmacists make critical errors while reading a doctor’s handwritten prescription.

What Indiana medical malpractice lawyers find even more intriguing is that doctors who use electronic prescription tools to prescribe medications, also probably contribute to patients’ higher adherence to medication programs. Every year, a large number of prescriptions are not filled at all, because patients lose the piece of paper. That risk is eliminated with the use of electronic prescription devices.

Additionally, doctors who use e-prescription tools are able to tailor medication programs to the needs of the patient, and factor in variables like costs that can affect a patient's adherence to a medication program. A patient is not only less likely to purchase an expensive medication, but also less likely to continue the medication program for the entire course. By using electronic prescription tools, doctors can have more information available at their fingertips, including the cost of the medication.

The researchers investigated the error rates in a hospital ward that made use of electronic prescription, compared to other hospital wards that used standard prescription methods. They also studied and analyzed the error rates in at least 2 other hospital wards both before and after the introduction of electronic prescription devices.

The researchers found that in hospitals that used electronic prescription tools, errors fell by a staggering 90%. The rate of serious errors fell by as much as 44% when the doctors used electronic prescription tools, as compared with a serious error drop of 16.7% when doctors used standard prescription programs.

It's not as if electronic prescription programs are completely error-proof and risk-free. The researchers found that some particular errors seem to occur with the use of electronic prescription tools. For instance, a doctor may accidentally choose the wrong drug on a menu list. However, such system-related errors can be blamed more on the poor use of the technology than on the technology itself and have the potential to be remediated through user training. Even when these system-related errors are the result of poor software design, the errors can be corrected by system redesigns.

While the researchers recognize limitations in their study, the results seem to indicate that the use of electronic prescription tools holds significant promise in reducing serious prescription errors.

The Indiana medical malpractice lawyers at Montross Muller Muller Mendelson Kennedy are dedicated to the representation of victims of medical negligence across Indiana.