Friday, June 29, 2007

Doctors' poor penmanship can have deadly results

From the Globe and Mail:
The abysmal handwriting of physicians is the stuff of legend among nurses and pharmacists. But the result - frequent medication errors due to drug names and dosages misread from doctors' chicken scratch - is deadly serious.

New research has driven home just how harmful badly written prescriptions and other transcription errors can be.

The study, published in the journal Health Services Research, shows that having doctors write electronic prescriptions - by typing them into a computer rather than writing them by hand - reduces medication errors by a staggering 66 per cent.

"These medication errors are very painful for doctors, as well as the patients. Nobody wants to make a mistake," said Tatyana Shamliyan, a research associate at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, and the lead author of the paper.

While poor handwriting is a major issue, it is not the only one, she said. Medication errors can occur because of transcription problems, poor communication, incomplete medical records and drug reactions.What is clear, though, is that a computerized physician order entry (CPOE) system dramatically reduces mistakes. ...more

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