Patient safety and computerized medication ordering at Brigham and Women's Hospital

Jt Comm J Qual Improv. 2001 Oct;27(10):509-21. doi: 10.1016/s1070-3241(01)27045-x.


Background: Medications are important therapeutic tools in health care, yet creating safe medication processes is challenging for many reasons. Computerized physician order entry (CPOE), one important way that technology can be used to improve the medication process, has been in place at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH; Boston) since 1993.

Cpoe at bwh: The CPOE application, designed and developed internally by the BWH information systems team, allows physicians and other clinicians to enter all patient orders into the computer. Physicians enter 85% of orders, with the remainder entered electronically by other clinicians.

Cpoe and safe medication use: The CPOE application at BWH includes several features designed to improve medication safety--structural features (for example, required fields, use of pick lists), enhanced workflow features (order sets, standard scales for insulin and potassium), alerts and reminders (drug-drug and drug-allergy interaction checking), and adjunct features (the pharmacy system, access to online reference information).

Results at bwh: Studies of the impact of CPOE on physician decision making and patient safety at BWH include assessment of CPOE's impact on the serious medication error and the preventable adverse drug event rate, the impact of computer guidelines on the use of vancomycin, the impact of guidelines on the use of heparin in patients at bed rest, and the impact of dosing suggestions on excessive dosing.

Conclusion: CPOE and several forms of clinical decision support targeted at increasing patient safety have substantially decreased the frequency of serious medication errors and have had an even bigger impact on the overall medication error rate.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Pharmacy Information Systems
  • Drug Therapy, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Hospitals, Teaching
  • Humans
  • Massachusetts
  • Medical Records Systems, Computerized*
  • Medication Errors / prevention & control
  • Medication Systems, Hospital / standards
  • Patient Care / methods*
  • Patient Care / standards
  • Safety Management / methods*
  • Safety Management / standards