NPR Takes a Look at Prescription Errors

In their health blog today, National Public Radio examines data that shows electronic prescriptions are safer and less prone to error than the traditional, hand-written prescriptions. Here’s an excerpt from the blog post: “1 in 7 hospitalized patients suffers some form of error in care. Nearly a third of those mistakes are related to drugs. And those mix-ups can lead to longer hospital stays, unnecessary suffering, permanent damage or death.
One way to reduce mistakes is to have doctors enter the prescriptions on a computer instead of with pen and paper. After the switch, hospitals can see error rates drop by a whopping 60 percent.
That’s the result of a study, published today in PLoS Medicine, that tracked medication errors in two Australian hospitals before and after installing electronic prescription systems.

For starters, the old saw about doctors having illegible chicken scratches is for real. “People can actually read the prescribing orders now,” Johanna Westbrook, director of the Centre for Health Systems and Safety Research at the University of New South Wales and lead author on the study, tells Shots. “You’re not relying on trying to interpret handwriting.”
That’s a 60% drop in prescription errors! The effects of such a reduction would be just as dramatic in terms of a real reduction in healthcare costs. So, why not make the switch?