Potentially fatal drug errors missed by electronic ordering systems, report finds

Computerized physician order entry systems don’t always catch potentially harmful errors.
Computerized physician order entry systems don’t always catch potentially harmful errors.

Computerized physician order entry systems don't always catch potentially harmful or fatal medication errors, according to a report released Thursday.

Tests conducted by the Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit organization that reports on hospital safety, found that hospitals' CPOE systems didn't flag 39% of potentially harmful drug orders. The systems also missed 13% of potentially fatal orders, the report found.

The most common errors that went undetected by the system include prescribing patients the wrong drug, requested an incorrect dosage of a drug or incidents where follow-up reminders failed to appear. Despite the unflagged errors, hospitals' ability to detect potential drug errors has actually improved slightly since 2014, the report found.

With the investigation's findings showing the systems' ability for error, healthcare providers and patients should still be vigilant when it comes to medications, experts told Kaiser Health News. Providers also should implement “checks and balances,” including manually reviewing patients' drugs in addition to electronic systems.

“Technology exists to help with detecting medical errors at the point of when you're entering drug orders in the hospital or health care settings,” Jesse Pines, directory of the Office for Clinical Practice Innovation at George Washington University, told KHI. “But they're not perfect. They still need a lot of work.”

Medication errors are the third-highest cause of death in the United States, according to NPR.