E-Prescriptions May Reduce Medication Errors

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Preventable Adverse Elements, or PAEs, account for 50 to 100,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. One major contributor to PAEs is patient medication errors, and the implementation of e-prescription systems can cut down on these mistakes, according to Patexia.

Part of the problem with medication errors is the multiple steps needed to administer a drug in a traditional hospital setting. In the inpatient setting, a doctor writes the prescription order for the patient's chart, a nurse transfers the order to the pharmacy, the pharmacy reviews it, sends it back, and the nurse finally administers the medication. Mistakes can be made at the many points of this process - handwriting can be illegible, drug allergies or drug interactions can be missed, etc. E-prescription systems seek to eliminate these sorts of errors, which can cost hospitals up to $3 million per year.

E-prescription systems allow healthcare providers to log prescription medication into a computer, which is then sent to a pharmacy, and administered. Many of the aforementioned points of error are eliminated, and doctors have better access to menus regarding dosing options, routes of administration, patient medical history, possible drug allergies, etc. A recent Australian study reports that the use of e-prescriptions cut down on medication errors by about 60%, and reduced serious drug related errors by 44%. Hardwriting legibility issues and incomplete prescription orders were mostly eliminated with the e-system, though interestingly, drug allergy/interaction errors were not really affected - though these issues were rare going into the study.

The use of e-prescriptions is in the rise, according to a report by Cal eConnect, which shows a jump from 3% to 25% between 2007 and 2011. Coupled with the latest developments of an iPhone-connected smartpill, advances in e-prescribing for the administering of e-drugs might all but eliminate preventable adverse elements in the future.

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