Medication alerts in electronic-prescribing systems can help prevent errors and patient harm, according to research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Researchers from the Dana-Farber Cancer Center in Boston studied the medication alerts generated by one commercial physician-order entry system and developed a simulation to gauge how providers might react to those alerts when they appeared. An expert panel studied the alerts and the various reactions a patient might have to the medications that were prescribed through the electronic system if the alerts were ignored. Adverse drug events were categorized as serious, significant or minor, according to the research. Researchers studied all e-prescriptions written by 2,321 Massachusetts doctors from Jan. 1 to June 30, 2006, and looked at 133,051 alerts generated by those prescriptions.
Based on the panel's conclusions, paying attention to the medication alerts could have prevented 402 adverse events, including 49 serious, 125 significant and 228 minor events, according to the researchers. The alerts also could have resulted in fewer hospitalizations and visits to the emergency department.
Providers sometimes override automatic alerts when prescribing because of the frequency with which alerts pop up in the system, the researchers said. Reducing the range of automatic alerts could increase the number of clinically significant alerts that a provider accepts. “We believe that the technology's ability to prevent adverse-drug events makes it worthwhile,” the researchers wrote.