Costly errors in drug prescribing are spurring a new industry in medication management.
Several companies now sell computer software to help physicians prescribe drugs. The new Baxter International spinoff, Allegiance Corp., takes it another step, marketing "medication managers" in a joint venture with Value Health (May 20, p. 28).
The joint venture would place medication experts in hospitals for at least two years to improve medication use. The still unnamed joint venture has presented its concept to 40 hospitals but hasn't signed contracts yet.
"The problem is dramatic. In a few short years, hospitals will, at the existing rate of increase, be spending 20% to 25% of their total budgets on medication-related costs," said John Davis, president of the joint venture. "There's a huge opportunity to take out costs."
Consider the statistics:
Roughly one-third of hospital patients have adverse reactions to prescription drugs because of dosing errors, side effects or other reasons. About 8.8 million hospitalizations result annually.
Physicians' lack of information lies behind roughly one-third of medication errors. But keeping up with the field is time-consuming, as thousands of pages of drug information are released every month.
The Allegiance-Value Health venture's offerings will also include a computer system to aid physician prescribing. Davis said one company it might work with is Multum, an information systems firm in Denver.
Multum markets a computer program that matches prescriptions to patient information, such as age, weight, and liver and kidney functions. Warnings flash on the computer screen if the drug is hazardous to the patient.
Instead of minutes, it would take at least half an hour to obtain the same information through textbooks, according to one customer, Baylor University Medical Center, Dallas.
Multum's Medisource system also compares prescriptions with formularies, prints patient information and provides a drug history for each patient. Available since 1994, it's installed at 25 hospitals and clinics, mostly at the point of patient care, said Doug Hall, a senior associate at Multum.
Other software products designed to improve drug use are on the market. For example, ProxyMed of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., makes software that allows physicians to enter prescriptions into a computer. The prescriptions then are screened against hospital guidelines and electronically transmitted to pharmacies. University of Louisville (Ky.) Hospital is ProxyMed's first hospital customer.
In addition, drug-dosing software made by five other companies recently was evaluated by Medical Software Review, Brooklyn, N.Y.