designers looking to combat rx errors must first combat alarm fatigue

Medical facilities, hospitals and pharmacies have implemented a multitude of high-tech measures over the years in an attempt to eradicate medication errors.

The reality, however, is that while high-tech measures like bar code technology and electronic health records have helped reduce the tide of drug errors to a certain degree, it nevertheless remains a very real and very serious patient safety issue. Indeed, statistics show that as many as 1.5 million patients here in the U.S. experience a prescription error every year.

While it may seem as if there isn’t much more that can be done to help prevent medication mistakes, at least one IT company is now seeking $2.5 million in funding to move forward with the development of a system designed to catch potential mistakes before a patient ever sets foot in a pharmacy.

According to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company, MedAware Solutions, is seeking funding to develop its Prescription Analysis and Alert System.

Here, the system essentially works in conjunction with the Computerized Physician Order Entry system found in EHRs, analyzing the prescriptions ordered and alerting the physician to any potential issues/abnormal patterns.

By way of illustration, it’s envisioned that the Prescription Analysis and Alert System could inform the physician of any errors involving the wrong patient or the wrong medication, alert pharmacists and other treating physicians of any issues, and inform the physician when a lab test verifies that a medication is no longer necessary.

While this is certainly a fascinating idea, some experts have raised a very interesting point about the notion of alarm fatigue.

To recap, alarm fatigue is the phenomenon in which medical professionals are now subjected to so many alarms/notifications during the course of the average workday — with so many being false alarms — that they no longer pay any attention to them.

In order for the Prescription Analysis and Alert System to be truly effective, its designers will need to find a way to ensure that it doesn’t become just another screen to click through and/or warning to be discounted. However, there is no doubt that the possibilities posed by the technology are fascinating.

Always remember to consider speaking with a legal professional as soon as possible if you’ve been injured by an otherwise avoidable medication error or type of medical malpractice.

Source: MedCity News, “EMR alert to spot medication errors could save patients lives or add to alarm fatigue,” Stephanie Baum, Aug. 12, 2014

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