TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Drug-Error Risk at Hospitals Tied to Computers

Drug-Error Risk at Hospitals Tied to Computers

Monty Solomon (
Thu, 10 Mar 2005 07:28:47 -0500

By Scott Allen, Globe Staff | March 9, 2005

Hospital computer systems that are widely touted as the best way to
eliminate dangerous medication mix-ups can actually introduce many
errors, according to the most comprehensive study of hazards of the
new technology. The researchers, who shadowed doctors and nurses in a
Philadelphia hospital for four months, found that some patients were
put at risk of getting double doses of their medicine while others get
none at all.

Doctors at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania identified
22 types of mistakes they have made because of difficulty using
computerized drug-ordering, such as failing to stop old medications
when adding new ones or forgetting that the computer automatically
suspended medications after surgery. Some doctors interviewed for the
study said they made computer-related mistakes several times a week.

The findings underscore the complexity of improving safety in US
hospitals, where the Institute of Medicine estimates that errors of
all kinds kill 44,000 to 98,000 patients a year.

The University of Pennsylvania researchers stressed that computers
hold great potential, but said many systems are overhyped and hard to
use, prompting one Los Angeles hospital to turn off its drug-ordering
system altogether.

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