Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Computers Can Add Errors, Too, Study of Medical Records Finds

A story in the Wall Street Journal sounds a cautionary note.

"Patient-safety advocates, lawmakers and even the Bush administration have been pushing hospitals to implement computerized physician-order entry systems to reduce medical errors and deaths. But a study found that computer systems as well can introduce medical errors.The study, by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, looked at a computer system used by doctors to order medicines at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. The study, published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found many potential glitches. Errors included confusing different patients listed alphabetically in the computer; ordering drugs at a terminal not 'logged out' by the prior physician, which could lead to mistakenly order drugs for the previous patient; and delays because of frequent computer 'crashes.' "

"The study said computerized order systems have many benefits over paper, such as eliminating mistakes associated with trying to decipher a doctor's handwriting. Ross Koppel, lead author of the study and a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania, said he wasn't opposed to computerized systems, but 'blind faith in the technology is silly.' Many computer systems fail to consider the human element needed to operate them in a fast and efficient way. The study is expected to stir debate among advocates of bringing hospitals more fully into the computer era."



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