Electronic prescriptions contain about as many errors as handwritten prescriptions, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association. The study's conclusion: "Implementing a computerized prescribing system without comprehensive functionality and processes in place to ensure meaningful system use does not decrease medication errors."
The researchers examined 3,850 electronic prescriptions received by a commercial pharmacy chain in three states over a month's time. Of these prescriptions, 452 (11.7 percent) contained 466 total errors, of which 163 (35 percent) were considered potential adverse drug events.
The most common error, accounting for about 60 percent of the mistakes, was the omission of key prescribing information, such as length of treatment and dosage. The researchers said that better training and tweaking of the e-prescribing programs likely could remedy this problem.
The incidence of errors varied from 5 percent to 37.5 percent, depending on the type of e-prescribing application used.
The study's authors suggested that reprogramming systems to prevent prescriptions from being completed if certain information were missing might be one way to prevent many of the errors. The inclusion of maximum dose checks and calculators in the applications would also help, they said.