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New Study Shows e-Prescribing May Actually Lead to More Errors: Part I

In an age where everything from music to shopping is going digital, it's no wonder that the medical field is jumping on board as well. Electronic medical records (EMR) are the latest implementation for many doctors and medical professionals nationwide.

However, once touted as a measure that was sure to help decrease medical errors, a new study suggests that switching from prescribing prescriptions via paper to e-prescribing may actually lead to more problems.

The Study

According to a study published in MedPage Today and discussed at the recent e-Health Collaborative's Digital Health Conference in New York, primary care doctors that initially adopted an electronic health record (EHR) system saw a significant decrease in prescription errors. However, more experienced physicians that had been using EHR systems and simply upgraded or transferred systems showed a significant increase in prescription errors.

Conducted by Lisa Kern, MD, of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, the study examined 138 primary care physicians - comprised of both seasoned EHR adopters and paper prescribers - and looked at 15 different quality measures.

The paper prescribers that transitioned to using an EHR for the first time showed an 85 percent decrease in errors relating to drug prescribing. However, the experienced EHR users that upgraded to a new system showed a sharp increase in the number of errors. Inaccurate abbreviation errors were the most common type.

Prescription Drug Errors and Injury

According to the Institute of Medicine, medication errors affect more than 1.5 million Americans every year. Many of these errors are attributed to inaccurate or miswritten prescriptions which result in patients being mistakenly given the wrong drug with a similar name.

For example, Aciphex and Aricept have similar spellings, but the former is prescribed for acid reflux and the latter is prescribed for memory. Fosomax and Flomax also look quite the same, but are used for two completely different health conditions.

Sadly, the list goes on and on. Unfortunately a simple misabbreviation or misspelling of a word or name isn't just inconvenient; it can lead to injury or death to patients. Patients who seek help for high blood pressure, for instance, and instead receive a drug for erectile dysfunction, could get very sick or even die.

Whether through additional training or a redesign of EHR systems, the study points out that more is needed to make sure doctors and medical professionals are utilizing the systems correctly.


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