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IT solution shown to reduce medication errors

A study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association found that implementation of a single information-technology tool in clinical settings could have a profound effect on the quality of patient care in Massachusetts and across the country. Computerized provider order entry, or CPOE, has been in use for years, but according to researchers, the rate of adoption remains "modest" despite a financial incentive included in the HITECH Act.

The meta-analysis found that exclusive use of CPOE in a clinical setting could reduce medication errors by as much as 48 percent. Researchers went further by calculating the total benefit in decreased errors that could be attributed to CPOE use in 2008. They found that CPOE use eliminated what would have otherwise been an additional 17.4 million medication errors that year. Prior research by the Institute of Medicine uncovered an average rate of one medication error per day per patient.

CPOE reduces the number of errors by eliminating some common causes. These include illegible script, improper transcription, dosage mistakes and adverse reactions. The study was made more difficult with the large variety of CPOE systems in use, and researchers were careful to point out that CPOE adoption may result in other errors. However, researchers considered the number of potential CPOE errors to be much lower than the number of corrected errors.

Failure to adopt new technology that is proven to help protect patients could turn out to be costly for hospitals and other health providers. Not all medication errors result in injury, but the large estimation of errors coupled with this research suggests that many patients are suffering serious injuries and fatalities because of provider negligence. In Massachusetts, victims of negligent physicians or pharmacists may be entitled to compensation for their injuries with the help of an experienced medical malpractice attorney.

Source: Healthcare IT News, "CPOE cuts medication errors, study shows," Mike Miliard, Feb. 22, 2013

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