Electronic prescribing systems could increase medication error risk

Implementing electronic prescribing and medication administration systems in hospitals could increase overall medication risk, according to a study published in BMC Health Services Research.

Researchers conducted a mixed methods study, during which they performed direct observations of ward pharmacists before and after implementation of an electronic prescribing and medication administration system. They also conducted semi-structured interviews post-implementation. In all, they performed 116 hours and 50 minutes of observations.

The study shows that screening inpatient medication increased by 16 minutes per 10 patients reviewed after implementation of the system. But, searching for paper drug charts or computer decreased by 2 minutes per 10 patients reviewed.

Additionally, pharmacists' interactions with patients decreased from 5 percent to 2 percent of their time.

Several themes emerged from the pharmacist interviews, including that while electronic prescribing and medication administration systems had a number of valuable safety features, some may have contributed to medication errors.

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