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Is CPOE the answer to reducing medication errors?

For residents of the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area it is likely difficult to imagine a time when prescription drugs were not available. While the availability of such medications has dramatically changed the way in which injured or ill individuals are treated, providing pain relief and even keeping people from dying, it has created other hazards in the way of medication errors.

There are multiple forms a medication error could take including:

  • Prescribing or providing a patient the wrong drug
  • Prescribing or providing a patient the wrong amount of the drug
  • Prescribing or providing a patient a drug that the patient is allergic to

These errors, along with others, are a contributing factor in the death of 7,000 each year. Many more individuals are injured as a result of a medication error but do not die.

While there are likely many things that could be done to reduce the number of medication errors that occur in the United States, some believe that implementing computerized physician order could have a major impact on the number of medication errors committed throughout the nation each day. Upon entering a medication order into the system, it runs a check against the patient’s medical information to determine whether there are any reasons why the drug could harm the individual.

Though according to at least one source, the use of CPOE could reduce errors by up to 85 percent, because nothing is foolproof, including computer programs, there is still the potential for medication errors to occur. To address that issue, it is important to test the system regularly to make sure it is operating the way it should.

While the idea of a world free of medication errors is a good one, in reality that is not likely in the near future. Should an individual be injured as a result of a medication error, that person, or his or her loved ones, should be aware that it may be possible to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against those responsible for the mistake.

Source: Forbes, “The Shocking Truth About Medication Errors,” Leah Binder, Sept. 3, 2013

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