March 6, 2013
CPOE Systems Significantly Lower Drug Error
Rates in Hospitals

Cambridge, MA—Using an electronic ordering system decreases the likelihood of a drug error by half and averts more than 17 million such incidents in U.S. hospitals each year, according to a recent study.

If more widely adopted, according to the research published online in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, those systems could avoid 50 million drug errors a year.

Computerized provider order entry (CPOE) systems process prescriptions or test requests electronically, sending them directly to the relevant individual/department. Quality and safety are improved because handwritten instructions are no longer employed and because the systems detect potentially harmful interactions with other medications or suspicious dosages, the researchers note.

To determine CPOE systems’ effect on error rates, researchers used a variety of published sources, including the 2006 American Society of Health System Pharmacists Annual Survey and the 2007 American Hospital Association (AHA) Annual Survey of 4,701 hospitals, as well as data on uptake of electronic health records.

The information was used to estimate reduction in drug errors for 2008, determining that use of CPOE reduced errors by 12.5% nationally—or about 17.4 million in 2008 alone.

At the time, the authors point out, the AHA survey indicated that only one in three acute care hospitals had adopted CPOE, and those were primarily larger, urban, and teaching hospitals.

About 40% of respondents with CPOE said they processed 90% of drug orders through the system, but 42% with the technology said they used it less than half the time.

“Despite CPOE systems' effectiveness at preventing medication errors, adoption and use in US hospitals remains modest,” the authors write, noting the “great potential” of further reduction in drug errors.

“If all US hospitals adopted CPOE, assuming constant implementation levels of around 60%, 51 million medication errors per year could be averted compared with what would have been expected without CPOE,” the researchers suggest.

U.S. Pharmacist Social Connect