Magazine article Medical Economics

Electronic Prescribing: Where's the Physician Leadership?

Magazine article Medical Economics

Electronic Prescribing: Where's the Physician Leadership?

Article excerpt

A friend of mine is still grappling with the aftereffects of a prescription-drug overdose nearly two decades ago, when she was 20. She'd returned from Mexico with a parasitic infection, and her doctor had prescribed a drug at double the recommended dosage. Apparently, he didn't consult the Physicians' Desk Reference, which warned of "potential neurotoxicity" if treatments exceeded those recommended. The drug was eventually taken off the market.

Today, my friend still feels as if "the synapses aren't firing properly." While she was taking the drug, she became-and remainshypersensitive to common chemicals. She even had to drop out of painting classes (a sacrifice for a fine arts major) because she couldn't tolerate the materials.

Relatively speaking, my friend is lucky. She could have been among the more than 7,000 people in the US who die each year as a result of medication errors.1 Fortunately, such mistakes-and the suffering they cause-are becoming easier to prevent. Electronic prescribing, when properly applied and developed, can greatly reduce this problem.

In a study of 545 intensive-care patients at LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City, a computerized system to help doctors choose the best anti-infective regimen reduced the incidence of allergic drug reactions and excessive drug dosages by more than 75 percent. This, in turn, reduced average patient time in the ICU from 4.9 days to 2.7, cutting average inhospital costs for those patients from $35,283 to $26,315.2 The system was designed by doctors at Intermountain Health Care (IHC), an integrated delivery system.

Electronic prescribing can also be a tremendous time-saver for the office-based doctor, as we reported in our Oct. 26 issue ("Big pluses-and minusesof electronic prescribing"). Why, then, is this trend just inching forward?

The problem is lack of physician leadership. IHC is one of only a few physician organizations that have taken the initiative. …

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