Patient Safety

Written by Patricia Tunstall
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Patient safety is paramount in the drive to encourage use of electronic prescribing of medications. In this regard, the healthcare industry is lagging behind other industries in the installation of computerized systems. In the last few years, however, electronic appointment schedules and billing management systems have become common, and an array of new applications have streamlined healthcare delivery.

Medication Errors

There are several reasons why electronic prescribing has not been more widely implemented. For one thing, a lack of technical standards has hindered the spread of computer systems. The intervention of the federal government through the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 should stimulate the growth of technology in the medication field. This legislation requires national, uniform standards for ePrescribing by April 1, 2008.

A medication error is a preventable, unintended event that may lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm. Naturally, this event must be connected to the prescribing or dispensing of medication by a health practitioner. This would include misread prescriptions, poor labeling or packaging, or any mistake made in the creation or administration of the medication. Studies suggest the number of outpatients who suffer medication errors is on the rise.

In a recent consumer poll, 70 percent of respondents said they would be interested in using an electronic personal health record. In an interesting contrast to the real figures, 40 percent of respondents believed their doctors already use electronic records in their practice. When only five percent of doctors use ePrescribing, it is understandable that the federal government intends to use financial incentives to spur the use of technology in the medical field.


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