WEDNESDAY, June 29 (HealthDay News) -- Outpatient electronic
prescribing systems make the same common mistakes that occur in
manual systems, a new study finds.
Researchers examined 3,850 computer-generated prescriptions
received by a commercial pharmacy chain in three different U.S.
states over a four-week period in 2008. Of those prescriptions, 452
(nearly 12 percent) contained a total of 466 errors, of which about
one-third were deemed to be potentially harmful.
Of the 163 errors considered potentially harmful, 58 percent
were considered "significant" (including diarrhea, rash, headache),
and 42 percent were deemed "serious" (such as, low blood sugar,
reduced heart rate and fainting). None of the errors was classified
as life-threatening, the study authors noted.
The most common types of drugs involved in errors were nervous
system drugs (27 percent), cardiovascular drugs (13.5 percent) and
anti-inflammatories/antibiotics (12.3 percent), the investigators
The rate of prescribing errors varied considerably among the 13
electronic prescribing systems analyzed, ranging from 5 percent to
37 percent, according to the study published in the June 29 online
edition of the
Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.
"Providers appear to be rapidly adopting electronic health records and computerized prescribing, and one of the major anticipated benefits is expected to be through medication-error reduction," wrote Dr. Karen Nanji, of the department of anesthesia, critical care and pain medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, and colleagues.
But the use of "a computerized prescribing system without
comprehensive functionality and processes in place to ensure
meaningful use of the system does not decrease medication errors,"
the authors concluded.
The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality offers
tips for taking medicines safely.