Computer warnings help avoid drug errors
BIDMC researchers say a specially programmed computer warning system can significantly reduce doctors' orders for drugs that pose a danger to older patients.
The findings, reported in the new edition of the Archives of Internal Medicine, are especially helpful for doctors who have not been trained in geriatric medicine.
Adverse drug events, such as dizziness or confusion occur in an estimated 40 percent of all hospital patients and can be the result of inappropriate medications being ordered. Not surprisingly, elderly individuals are particularly vulnerable to these adverse events, which not only result in longer hospitalizations, but can also pose a threat of serious complications and even death.
Computerized provider order entry (CPOE) enables physicians to electronically order medications and treatments for hospital inpatients and was developed, in part, to help prevent errors in prescribing medications (such as drug allergies or drug-drug interactions). CPOE systems can be programmed to issue a computerized "warning message" that alerts physicians to possible problems and conflicts. BIDMC first started using a CPOE system approximately 10 years ago.
A specialized version of CPOE developed by Dr. Melissa Mattison, a pharmacist and computer information specialist in 2004 helps doctors in prescribing medications for elderly patients. The new system uses components of the Beers List, which was developed by physician Mark Beers in 1993 to draw attention to dozens of common drugs that should be prescribed "with caution" to elderly patients.
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