Do Electronic Medical Records Systems Actually Reduce Prescription Errors?

Doctor prescription errors are some of the most common errors related to medications and can often be traced back to illegible writing. Busy doctors do not also make sure the name of the medication and instructions are clearly written on their orders. With many drugs having similar spellings and dosages that can vary greatly, patients wind up with the
wrong medication or the
wrong dosage instructions.

One solution to this growing problem is to automate prescriptions, using a computer system to print prescriptions. However, The Wall Street Journal’s Health Blog reveals that these systems may not solve the prescription mistake problems clinics and hospitals face. While the new systems have lead to an overall drop in medication errors, certain specific types may actually increase.

Implementation of electronic medical record (EMR) systems generally results in a decrease in errors associated with abbreviations. This change reportedly occurred immediately and was sustained over the year after the new system was introduced. In contrast, errors including wrong medication directions and incorrect dosages were not reduced and in some cases became more frequent.

Furthermore, as anyone who has ever worked through a software change can probably tell you, transitioning to a new system can be very difficult. 40% of the physicians who participated in the study reported being dissatisfied with the system. Only a minority said they believed the EMR system actually improved patient safety.


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