It's a small study group, but the results are eye-opening nonetheless: Primary-care practices cut their prescription error rates from 42.5 percent to 6.6 percent in a one-year period by adopting e-prescribing technology.
That's the finding of researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, as reported in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, who studied the prescribing accuracy of 12 primary-care practices in New York state. Six of the practices wrote prescriptions electronically, resulting in the major reduction in errors, while the half-dozen practices in the control group that stuck with paper prescription pads had a small uptick in their error rate, from 37 percent to 38 percent.
Not surprisingly, e-prescribing had an immediate impact on legibility, as the researchers found at the beginning of the study period that 88 percent of handwritten prescriptions at the practices that adopted the technology had some question about the prescriber's intentions. What e-prescribing did not do, however, is reduce the rate of potentially adverse drug events. But near misses actually increased at practices that did not switch to e-prescribing.