Background: Iatrogenic injuries related to medications are common, costly, and clinically significant. Computerized physician order entry (CPOE) and clinical decision support systems (CDSSs) may reduce medication error rates.
Methods: We identified trials that evaluated the effects of CPOE and CDSSs on medication safety by electronically searching MEDLINE and the Cochrane Library and by manually searching the bibliographies of retrieved articles. Studies were included for systematic review if the design was a randomized controlled trial, a nonrandomized controlled trial, or an observational study with controls and if the measured outcomes were clinical (eg, adverse drug events) or surrogate (eg, medication errors) markers. Two reviewers extracted all the data. Discussion resolved any disagreements.
Results: Five trials assessing CPOE and 7 assessing isolated CDSSs met the criteria. Of the CPOE studies, 2 demonstrated a marked decrease in the serious medication error rate, 1 an improvement in corollary orders, 1 an improvement in 5 prescribing behaviors, and 1 an improvement in nephrotoxic drug dose and frequency. Of the 7 studies evaluating isolated CDSSs, 3 demonstrated statistically significant improvements in antibiotic-associated medication errors or adverse drug events and 1 an improvement in theophylline-associated medication errors. The remaining 3 studies had nonsignificant results.
Conclusions: Use of CPOE and isolated CDSSs can substantially reduce medication error rates, but most studies have not been powered to detect differences in adverse drug events and have evaluated a small number of "homegrown" systems. Research is needed to evaluate commercial systems, to compare the various applications, to identify key components of applications, and to identify factors related to successful implementation of these systems.