Prescription Drug Errors-a Persistent but Solvable Problem

A recent study of hospitals in Canada concluded that 10-15% of all prescriptions contain errors. These errors can be serious, sometimes fatal. The study also found that 25% of all preventable medical errors originated with a drug error. There are many factors that contribute to this pervasive and persistent problem. One of the more preventable and fixable issues concerns the illegible handwriting that contributes to prescription drug errors. There are solutions to this problem-electronic processing of drugs and prescriptions.
According to those who’ve studied the issue, “Researchers say that the health care systems of Canada and the U.S. have the least developed information technology for patient record-keeping, prescriptions and other medical tasks. According to Dr. Richard Alvarez, the most significant barrier for electronic record-keeping is not financial costs, but rather the traditional work habits of medical professionals.

Some medical professionals are embracing Dr. Alvarez’s efforts to reduce prescription drug errors. By computerizing the process, mistakes caused by poor handwriting, abbreviations and dosage errors could decrease substantially. Computer software could require doctors to double-check orders. A pharmacy would receive a computer printout of prescription information rather than an illegible note. Errors could still happen in manual entry of data, but in far fewer numbers.”