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Researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College recently concluded a study regarding the efficacy of “e-prescription” technology. These electronic prescribing systems are viewed by many in the medical field as extremely valuable and necessary tools that can save money, improve efficiency and, most importantly, prevent dangerous medication errors.
In general, electronic prescribing systems are designed to combat medication errors (improper dosage, improper medication duration or missing instructions, etc.) caused by the inability to read a physician’s handwriting. They also provide a physician with immediate access to a wealth of valuable information, including patient allergies and potentially dangerous drug interactions.
The study in question, which was relatively small in scope, focused on twelve primary care practices in suburban and rural New York. Exactly six of these practices were administered the same electronic prescription technology while the other six continued to use the older method of handwritten prescriptions. The incidence of medication errors was compared after one year.
The research team found that after one year, the practices that used the electronic prescription technology had reduced the rate of prescription errors from 42.5 per 100 prescriptions to 6.6 per 100 prescriptions. Conversely, the practices that continued to use handwritten prescriptions saw almost no change in the rate of prescription errors.
While the results are encouraging, the study’s authors are cautioning readers from reaching conclusions prematurely. “Future studies should be performed with more providers, at diverse sites, and with multiple systems,” urged Dr. Rainu Kaushal, the study’s primary architect.
As of 2009, only 13 percent of physicians have adopted electronic prescription technology.
• Study: E-Prescriptions Cut Medication Errors (Reuters)