Congressional study sought after study reveals unexpected error rates in e-prescribing

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Reports of drug dosage mistakes, drug interactions and other electronic prescription errors have prompted members of Congress to request additional studies into health information technology systems.

In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) quoted a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that found the error rate of electronic prescriptions is consistent with that of handwritten prescriptions. Ellmers urged the department to more thoroughly investigate the rates of medical mistakes in clinical settings that use health IT. Ellmers is chairwoman of the House Small Business Subcommittee on Healthcare and Technology.

While Ellmers highlighted the benefits of health IT, she also noted that in congressional hearings, physicians expressed “their concern about the Medicare reimbursement penalties that will be assessed against providers who do not demonstrate ‘meaningful use' of health IT by 2015.”

Long touted as an antidote to handwritten prescriptions, which can be misread or are perceived to more easily contribute to dangerous chemical interactions, e-prescribing is increasingly being adopted by nursing homes.