There has been a major improvement in the ability of hospital computerized physician order (CPOE) systems to detect medication errors, according to the Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit organization that advocates for safety improvements in hospitals.
Two years ago, the Leapfrog announcement said, 214 hospitals used a web-based simulation tool to test the effectiveness of their CPOE systems in catching medication errors. Leapfrog found that, on average, the systems missed about half of routine medication mistakes and one-third of potentially fatal errors.
In another test conducted in 2011, 253 hospitals used the simulation tool to test CPOE. This time, they missed just slightly more than one-third of routine mistakes and 1 percent of errors that might have proved fatal.
Nevertheless, the Leapfrog Group said, hospitals have much further to go to ensure the safety of CPOE systems.
"This is the kind of improvement that shows what persistent monitoring and adjustment of these systems can achieve, and the hospitals that participate in the Leapfrog Hospital Survey and took the test deserve real credit," said Leah Binder, CEO of the Leapfrog Group, in the announcement. "But hospitals and technology companies haven't finished the job. When CPOE is implemented the right way and hospitals and vendors follow up to monitor and improve it, the result is what every patient hopes for when their life is at stake: the perfect harmony of caregiver and technology working for them."
The Leapfrog Group's annual hospital survey measures and publicly reports on how well patients fare in hospitals, the resources used to care for patients, and management practices that promote safety. Its website allows consumers to compare participating hospitals on overall safety and the safety of selected procedures.
A few years ago, Leapfrog complained that not enough hospitals were adopting CPOE, which it viewed as a key to improving patient safety. In 2010, following its first simulation test, it called for federal oversight of CPOE.
Recent studies on CPOE have come to different conclusions about whether it reduces or increases the number of medication errors. One expert, Dean Sittig of the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in Houston, told InformationWeek Healthcare last summer that CPOE can do both, but that on balance, it prevents far more mistakes than it causes.