Healthcare News & Insights

Study: Electronic checklist can reduce medication errors

Aside from reducing costs, one of the top benefits of health IT is that it can help providers improve patient safety. One recent study shows the success of a hospital’s efforts to reduce dangerous medication errors. 

One tool health IT systems often provide to help avoid errors is an electronic alert system that warns doctors when they place an order in an electronic physician order entry (EPOE) system for medications patients are allergic to or that conflict with medications the patient is already taking.

However, for those alerts to work properly, the system must contain accurate and up-to-date information about the medications patients are taking. That can be difficult in cases of patients taking multiple medications or in emergency situations when data must be collected quickly.

One practice that can help is to use an electronic questionnaire to collect accurate medication information from patients, according to a recent study published in Perspectives in Health Information Management.

Researchers from Texas State University-San Marcos studied eight nurses who took medication histories from 64 patients age 65 and over who were taking at least five medications. Before they were discharged, the patients were interviewed about the medications they were taking. Medication histories were recorded using both a handwritten process and an electronic checklist of prescriptions. Half of the patients used the handwritten documentation first, followed by the electronic checklist, and for the other half, the order was reversed.

Those medication histories were then compared to what was already documented in the patients’ electronic medical records, accounting for new medications prescribed during the patient’s hospital stay. The results: The medication histories created with the electronic questionnaires had a lower error rate than those created with the paper system.

Why were those histories more accurate? Researchers speculated it may have been because the checklist eliminated the chances of handwriting errors, and it had the names of medications listed, so patients were less likely to forget about a prescription.

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