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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Impact of Internally Developed Electronic Prescription on Prescribing Errors at Discharge from the Emergency Department


Introduction: Medication errors are common, with studies reporting at least one error per patient encounter. At hospital discharge, medication errors vary from 15%-38%. However, studies assessing the effect of an internally developed electronic (E)-prescription system at discharge from an emergency department (ED) are comparatively minimal. Additionally, commercially available electronic solutions are cost-prohibitive in many resource-limited settings. We assessed the impact of introducing an internally developed, low-cost E-prescription system, with a list of commonly prescribed medications, on prescription error rates at discharge from the ED, compared to handwritten prescriptions.

Methods: We conducted a pre- and post-intervention study comparing error rates in a randomly selected sample of discharge prescriptions (handwritten versus electronic) five months pre and four months post the introduction of the E-prescription. The internally developed, E-prescription system included a list of 166 commonly prescribed medications with the generic name, strength, dose, frequency and duration. We included a total of 2,883 prescriptions in this study: 1,475 in the pre-intervention phase were handwritten (HW) and 1,408 in the post-intervention phase were electronic. We calculated rates of 14 different errors and compared them between the pre- and post-intervention period.

Results: Overall, E-prescriptions included fewer prescription errors as compared to HW- prescriptions. Specifically, E-prescriptions reduced missing dose (11.3% to 4.3%, p <0.0001), missing frequency (3.5% to 2.2%, p=0.04), missing strength errors (32.4% to 10.2%, p <0.0001) and legibility (0.7% to 0.2%, p=0.005). E-prescriptions, however, were associated with a significant increase in duplication errors, specifically with home medication (1.7% to 3%, p=0.02).

Conclusion: A basic, internally developed E-prescription system, featuring commonly used medications, effectively reduced medication errors in a low-resource setting where the costs of sophisticated commercial electronic solutions are prohibitive.

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