Outpatient electronic prescribing systems don’t cut out the common mistakes made in manual systems, suggests research published online in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association (JAMIA).
And not all systems are the same: some perform worse than others, the study shows.
The rapid adoption of electronic prescribing systems has in part been fuelled by the belief that they would reduce the sorts of errors commonly made in manual prescribing systems, the authors say.
The authors base their findings on an analysis of just under 4,000 computer generated prescriptions received by a commercial pharmacy chain in three different US states over a period of four weeks in 2008.
They looked at the number of mistakes made and their potential to cause harm, as well as the frequency of particular mistakes and whether these were associated with one type of system.
Of the 3,850 prescriptions assessed, more than one in 10 (452; just under 12%) contained a total of 466 errors.
Of these, a third (163; 35%) were deemed to be potentially harmful.
Mistakes were classified as: “significant,” but posing little serious threat to life, such as rash, headache, or diarrhoea; serious but not life threatening, such as low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia), reduced heart rate (bradycardia), and fainting (syncope); and life threatening if not treated, such as heart attack and respiratory failure.
Among the 163 potentially harmful errors, over half (58%) were significant and the remainder (42%) were serious. None was life threatening. To read the full press release, see: E-Prescriptions.