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Prescription entry system reduces risk of medication error

It has been estimated that about a million medication errors happen each year in the United States. Maybe not all of these errors have catastrophic effects, but many of them do. Medication errors annually contribute to about 7,000 deaths, yet hospitals are remarkably slow to adopt new methods to protect patient health.

Mississippi residents may be interested in a relatively new technology that some hospitals use to prevent medication errors. Computerized physician order entry, otherwise known as CPOE, is meant to catch mistakes such as misplaced decimal points and prescribing the wrong drug.

When a doctor enters a prescription into the system, the order is checked against patient information before the order is sent to the pharmacy. The computer then electronically sends the order to the pharmacist, who doesn't have to worry about interpreting a doctor's handwriting.

Research cited in a recent Forbes article points to as much as an 85-percent drop in medication errors when hospitals use CPOE. But despite the great improvement in patient safety, hospitals are still slow to implement the necessary changes.

Another problem is that even when hospitals use CPOE, the system isn't monitored and tested often enough, increasing the risk of a prescription error.

In any case, medication errors are a preventable reality. Patients who have been injured because of a doctor's mistake often don't know where to turn. Hospitals and insurance companies will do what is in their power to limit liability, and injured patients may need to speak with a medical malpractice attorney to decide on the best course of action.

Source: Forbes, "The Shocking Truth About Medication Errors," Leah Binder, Sept. 3, 2013

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