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Patients Have the Same Chance of Medication Error with Electronic Prescriptions as Handwritten

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July 2, 2011

A new study has found that patients are just as likely to suffer medication errors with electronic prescriptions, touted as the new high tech way to prevent such errors, as they are with handwritten prescriptions.

Researchers examined 3,850 prescriptions received electronically by a pharmacy chain across three states and over the course of one month. They found that 1 in 10 electronic prescriptions contained at least one error, most commonly an omission of information. However, one third of the errors had the potential to harm to the patient, such as a drug overdose.

With an electronic prescription, called an E-prescription, a doctor sends a patient’s prescription for medication directly to the pharmacy via an electronic form. It is a key element of the government’s plan of electronic medical records and a national electronic health information infrastructure in the United States.

The study entitled Errors associated with outpatient computerized prescribing systems appears in the peer-reviewed journal of the American Medical Informatics Association (JAMIA).

According to Medpage Today, researchers recommended that electronic prescribing software have such safeguards as requiring complete information, including the entire drug name and dosage.

“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,” said study researchers. “Many of these benefits will not be realized if the electronic prescribing applications are not mature and either do not catch or even cause new medication errors.”