Electronic checklist improves accuracy of medication histories

A small study conducted at a suburban Central Texas hospital suggests that using an electronic medication checklist at admission can reduce medication errors for elderly patients taking multiple drugs.

The researchers, from Texas State University-San Marcos published their work at Perspectives in Health Information Management. The study involved eight nurses taking medication histories from 64 patients, ages 65 or older, all of whom were taking at least five medications. The patients were hospitalized for at least a week, and three days before discharge were interviewed about medications they were given. They then were divided into two groups: one interviewed first using paper records, then again using the electronic record; and the second group interviewed in the opposite order.

The access to a list of medication names was cited as one possible reason the electronic checklist was found to reduce the medication error rate more than recording the information on paper. The small sample size was listed among the study's limitations.

In addition, all the participating nurses worked first shift and had access to vendor representatives to help them with the technology, which could have affected the results.

Though concerned about medical mistakes, 68 percent of respondents to a recent Wolters Kluwer Health survey said they believe technology will help reduce mistakes in healthcare.

Meanwhile, a recent study funded by the philanthropic Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found nurses most likely to catch medication errors before they reach the patient. In cracking down on medical mistakes, Utah has told hospitals it will cut off Medicaid funds to facilities for avoidable errors and infections.

At the American Health Information Management Association's annual Long Term Care and Post Acute Providers Health IT Summit in Baltimore over the summer, health IT expert Bill Russell, M.D., told those attending that electronic records improved hand-off and coordination of care for patients going into long-term care and other facilities.

To learn more:
- read the research

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