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50% of medication errors unpreventable by IT systems, study finds

 

Health IT systems are often heralded as tools to help reduce medication errors by lowering the risk of human error. However, a recent study suggests half of medication errors are not preventable by using IT.

Researchers conducting the study, which was published in Drug Safety, retrospectively analyzed reported or trigger tool-identified error and adverse events at a pediatric tertiary care facility occurring between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012.

Researchers noted a total of 936 medication errors, 470 of which (50.2 percent) were deemed preventable by IT at their origin.

Of the medication errors preventable by IT, 32.9 percent were due to IT system bypasses, 21.9 percent were due to insensitivity of IT alerting systems and 10 percent were due to IT alert overrides.

That means that 50 percent of medication errors are also unpreventable by IT systems. Researchers indicated errors related to dispensing, administration and documentation errors were more likely than prescribing errors for being not preventable by IT.

“Inappropriate use of IT systems was a common cause of errors,” researchers concluded. “The identified risk factors represent areas where IT safety features were lacking.”