Two simple ways to cut medication errors

Medication errors in a hospital’s psychiatric unit were cut drastically with two techniques: an electronic prescription drug ordering system and a computerized method to report adverse events, according to new research from Johns Hopkins University.

The leader of the study, Geetha Jayaram, MD, MBA, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, says that “with the use of electronic ordering, training of personnel and standardized information technology systems, it is possible to eliminate dangerous medication errors” altogether.

The findings published in the March issue of the Journal of Psychiatric Practice illustrate how the psychiatric unit at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore went from a medication error rate of 27.89 per 1,000 patient days in 2003 to 3.43 per 1,000 patient days in 2007. And none of the medication errors during the study period caused death or serious, permanent harm, Javaram notes.

“Having something typed eliminates bad writing – and most errors – immediately,” she says. “It’s a good reason for going electronic.” Medication errors, which can be lethal, are known to be caused by illegible handwriting, misinterpretation of orders, fatigue on the part of medical personnel, pharmacy dispensing errors and administration mistakes. A pharmacy may misread what a physician has written or give the wrong medication or the wrong drug dose to a patient.

The computer program used in the psychiatric department also includes integrated decision support for drug dosage selection, drug allergy alerts, drug interactions, patient identifiers and monitoring – things that can be lost with a manual system that relies on layers of human beings to ensure the correct decisions are made, Jayaram says. The more the number of steps involved in the process, the greater the likelihood of mistakes.

Source: Scienceblog

You can read the complete study here.

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