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Digital medication ordering systems don’t prevent all risk of serious errors

In our last post, we looked at a recent analysis of federal data which found that hospital errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States. The finding is staggering, especially given the amount of trust patients and their families place in their health care providers. Hospital errors come in a wide variety, but the most common mistake is errors with medication.

Digital medication orders or digital drug ordering, which is part of something called “computerized physician order entry” (CPOE), has been one response to the high incidence of medication errors.  According to the Agency for Health Research and Quality, CPOE is any system in which health care providers directly enter medication orders into a computer system which sends the order directly to the pharmacy. Such systems help ensure medication orders are legible, complete and come in a standard format. 

At present, the vast majority of hospitals use computerized physician order entry systems. While the use of these systems has contributed to a reduction in medication errors, a recent report shows that these systems still fail to catch at least 13 percent of potentially deadly errors. This is concerning not only because of that 13 percent risk, but also because trust in digital medication ordering could blind hospitals to the weak points of these systems.

Experts in digital medication ordering systems say that errors may occur when they default to standardized information which doesn’t apply to a particular patient or when doctors fail to read information contained in an order because they assume it doesn’t matter.

In our next post, we’ll continue looking at this issue and how an experienced medical malpractice attorney can help patients who have been seriously harmed by a medication error. 

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