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Electronic prescriptions save lives: study 

Medication error has dropped in hospitals using e-prescribing technology.

The use of electronic prescriptions can slash medication error rates in hospitals by up to two-thirds, new research suggests.

A study by the University of NSW has found that prescribing errors at two Australian hospitals dropped between 58 and 66 per cent when commercial e-prescribing systems were used instead of handwritten scripts.

Procedural errors, such as incomplete or unclear medication orders, fell by over 90 per cent, while the number of serious clinical mistakes - including those that result in death - decreased by 44 per cent.

Lead researcher Professor Johanna Westbrook, from UNSW's Australian Institute of Health Innovation, said the implementation of e-prescribing technology could "absolutely" save lives.

"This is probably one of the first studies internationally which has shown, yes, we really are going to get the benefits that we hope from these systems," Westbrook told AAP.

However, the research also highlighted the fact that the electronic systems themselves created new - albeit less serious - errors that never occurred in paper-based orders.

"(But) when we looked at what those types of errors were, we could sometimes make quite simple design changes to the system and those errors can be fixed," Westbrook said.

The findings were published in the journal PLoS Medicine.


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